The Biden administration reverses a Trump-era policy that allowed health care providers to ban services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) patients.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave notice Monday that would interpret section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex) to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The department said its position is consistent with that of the June 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision inside Bostock v. Clayton County, GA. The ruling determined that the prohibition of the Civil Rights Act on employment discrimination based on sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Our department’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of all Americans, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Rachel Levine, MD, HHS deputy health secretary. statement released Monday.
“Everyone needs access to health services to correct a broken bone, protect their heart health, and examine their cancer risk,” he said. “No one should be discriminated against when it comes to seeking medical services for what it is.”
Many medical organizations applauded the decision.
“The Biden administration did the right thing by ending a short-lived effort to allow discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation when seeking medical attention,” said Susan R. Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association (AMA), statement.
When the Trump administration proposed in 2019 to allow providers to deny attention to LGBTQ people, the AMA said in a letter to HHS that his interpretation “was contrary to the intent and clear language of the law.”
Now, Bailey said, the AMA is celebrating the Biden administration’s interpretation. “It’s a victory for health equity and puts an end to a sad chapter in which a federal agency tried to remove civil rights protections,” he said.
An alliance of patient groups, including the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Epilepsy Foundation, the National Multiple sclerosis The Society and the National Organization for Rare Disorders – also applauded the new policy. “This community is already facing significant health disparities,” the groups noted in statement. People with chronic diseases such as HIV and cancer “should be able to access care quickly and without fear of discrimination,” they said.
The groups had introduced a friend from the court brief in one case against the Trump administration rule.
“We welcome this positive step to ensure that access is preserved unimpeded as required by the health care law,” they said.
Twenty-two states and Washington, DC, led by former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is now HHS secretary, sued the Trump administration in July 2020, with the goal of revoking the norm.
Chase Strangio, deputy director of Trans Justice for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ and HIV Project, noted that the HHS announcement was crucial in the face of efforts in several states to ban health care for transgender youth. “The Biden administration has stated what the courts have been saying for decades: discrimination against LGBTQ people is against the law. It also states what transgender people have been saying for a long time: the attention it says gender is life-saving care, ”he said in a statement.
Lambda Legal, which led another lawsuit against the Trump administration’s rule, said it welcomed HHS ’action, but noted in a statement by the organization’s lead attorney, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, who “does not address significant aspects of the Trump-era rule that we and others have challenged in court.”
Trump’s rule also “limited the resources available to people facing health disparities, limited access to health care for people with limited English proficiency (LEP), included illegal religious exemptions, and they drastically reduced the number of medical and insurance entities subject to the standard, which is not addressed in today’s action, ”said González-Pagan.
“We encourage Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Biden administration to take additional steps to ensure that all LGBTQ people are fully covered where and when they may be discriminated against during some of the most delicate and precarious times in their lives, when seeking health care. “, he pointed out. dit.
Alicia Ault is a freelance journalist based in Lutherville, Maryland, whose work has appeared in publications such as Smithsonian.com, the New York Times and the Washington Post. You can find her on Twitter @aliciaault.