The Trump administration will scrap ObamaCare’s non-discrimination protections for sex and gender identity under a final rule released Friday, reports The Hill.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement today that the government’s interpretation of sex discrimination will be based on “the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”
The move, which comes amid a worsening pandemic that has claimed over 114,000 American lives and on a day where the LGBTQ community paused to honor the victims of the Pulse massacre on the four-year anniversary of the attack, will change the federal regulation implementing the civil rights provision, Section 1557, of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to remove explicit protections for LGBTQ people in health care programs and activities by excluding protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity.
Advocates fear the policy will make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients and non-binary patients as well as women who have had abortions. The Obama-era rule made it illegal for doctors, hospitals and other health care workers to deny care to someone whose sexual orientation or gender identity they disapproved of.
“The Obama administration did this by expanding the health law’s definition of sex discrimination to include gender identity for the first time ever; but those rules were blocked by a federal judge in 2016. The Trump administration has worked to weaken the rules before they could take effect,” reports The Hill. “The Trump administration has argued that removing the protections is largely moot because a federal judge in Texas vacated much of the rule last year.”
“The Trump administration’s rule is wide-ranging and goes beyond the Obama-era protections by rolling back non-discrimination protections contained in other health provisions as well. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the rule removes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in ten existing regulations.”
Advocates worry that LGBTQ patients will now be discouraged from seeking treatment.
“At a time when protecting communities from the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount, your Department and the Trump Administration are knowingly putting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable individuals and children at risk, while blatantly promoting discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities and religious minorities by pursuing the finalization of this proposed rule,” Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Katie Keith, a health care consultant and professor at Georgetown Law, said the rule will target vulnerable communities, likely making existing health care disparities worse.
“The circumstances [of the pandemic] make it harmful, but it would be harmful either way. It seems extra callous to push the regulation out at this point in time,” Keith said.
The Human Rights Campaign slammed the proposed rule change back in April, calling out the Trump-Pence administration’s “latest actions to undermine the rights and welfare of LGBTQ people, putting a vulnerable population at increased risk for discrimination.”
“News flash Mr. President — we get sick, we need health care and we should be protected under law. Time after time, the Trump-Pence administration has methodically worked to undermine the rights and welfare of LGBTQ people by rolling back existing protections. Amid a global pandemic — which is already disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people — the Trump administration’s efforts to remove existing non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community is unacceptable, blatantly offensive, and cruel,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “We cannot accept an administration that continues to treat us like second class citizens. We will fight this policy & fight to get a pro-equality President into office this November who represents all of us.”