The Biden Administration is restoring gay and transgender health protections that Trump previously removed.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced a recent update to policy concerning the Affordable Care Act, according to NPR. Within the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557 prevents health care providers and insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities.” The Biden Administration will now interpret that section to include preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This decision reverses a Trump administration policy change that removed nondiscrimination protections, presented by the Obama Administration, for LGBTQ people in health care. While it took a while to finalize the rule change, it took effect in August of last year and has continued to be in the books. That is, until now. Though, multiple courts have already issued preliminary injunctions to block some parts of Trump’s rule.
This new policy change is being explained as an update in the HHS’s interpretation of existing law, according to the Associated Press. The agency seeks to interpret the law as something closer aligned with Bostock v. Clayton County. That landmark decision ruled that LGBTQ people are protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination based on sex.
“It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the ruling.
“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
“The Supreme Court has made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s why today HHS announced it will act on related reports of discrimination,” Becerra added.
If found in violation of this policy, hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers face potential denial of Medicare and Medicaid payments. Meanwhile, the HHS is transitioning under the guidance of assistant secretary of health Dr. Rachel Levine. Levine is in charge of overseeing public health initiatives, HIV/AIDS, women’s health and minority health, and research protections. The former Pennsylvanian top health official also happens to be the first openly transgender executive branch employee confirmed by the Senate.
In addition, this policy change comes just as an additional one million Americans have signed up for health insurance. The Biden Administration announced recently that a million Americans signed up for health insurance with the U.S. government during a special enrollment period, according to Reuters.
“One million more Americans who don’t have to lie awake at night worrying about what happens if they or one of their family members gets sick. Through this opportunity for special enrollment, we have made enormous progress in expanding access to health insurance,” Biden said in a statement.
The special enrollment period will continue through August 15. So, LGBTQ citizens can sign up during the period and not worry about discrimination from insurance companies.
“There is plenty of time left to sign up, and I encourage everyone who needs health insurance to go to HealthCare.gov by August 15. If you already have coverage, you can help family members and friends who are uninsured get themselves covered,” Biden said.