Dear UPMC – I Am Not “Other”

I’ve been at UPMC Shadyside since 6 AM as Ledcat is having some routine procedures. Like many others, I awoke early, dealt with an already crowded parking garage and sent my better half off to “the back” with a wee bit of anxiety.

Just another family member. Except UPMC says I’m not. According to their paperwork, I am “Other.”

This happens more often than you might imagine. Legally, here in Pittsburgh proper, we are domestic partners. In common vernacula, we are domestic partners. That relationship provides us with family health insurance which pays UPMC (sshhhh – its Highmark.)

But when it comes to forms and software, UPMC considers me “other” under the emergency contact category. I understand that they have to limit the fields and that some relationships need a catch-all: roommates, neighbors, friends, even extended family. But this feels different. It is 2013 – there are tens of thousands of same sex and opposite sex domestic partner households in Pennsylvania. Opposite sex couples can opt for “fiance/e” sometimes which while not always true, is more indicative of their relationship.

UPMC can do better. And they are making some effort – extending employee family leave policies to same sex couples. But this is an ongoing lack of respect for their patients, a signal to me that I have to count on staff goodwill to access courtesies afforded spouses and immediate families. Sure we have rights – but if your partner was in medical distress, would you want to make sure you have the Power of Attorney or the ACLU on speed dial? Do you program the hospital’s legal department number in your phone “just in case” you have to raise hell? Do you *know* your rights? They are different for domestic partners than for neighbors.

UPMC and other providers miss an opportunity to show all families that they respect & value LGBTQ patients when they say “nope, too costly to update the paperwork/software” or blame it on third-party vendors. If they can pour millions into bombarding us with scare tactic television ads every night, they can address this.

Meanwhile, both Ledcat and I make the effort to cross-out “other” and replace it with “domestic partner” each and every time. Sorry to the blameless clerical staff who have to waste their time with this small act of defiance, but perhaps if you tracked frequency you could advocate from within the system.

Meanwhile, I will sit here in the waiting room with my pager, complimentary coffee watching the Today Show. With the “other” others.

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