New Affordable Care Act Rule Protects Transgender Patients from Discrimination in Health Care and Coverage

By Megan Clayton • May 13, 2016 • 3:31 pm

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a final rule under the Affordable Care Act that prohibits denying health care or health coverage to people on the basis of gender identity.

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The Affordable Care Act already included prohibitions on discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. The new rule adds to this set of protected classes “gender identity and sex stereotyping,” a term meant to anticipate legal trends in applying such protections to all LGBT people.

The new rule would apply to providers who administer care as well as health insurance companies’ marketing, enrollment, and coverage practices. When this rule was under consideration last fall, some groups had requested broad religious exemptions. HHS opted against such exemptions then and confirmed that commitment today.

Though it does not explicitly include “sexual orientation,” HHS said in a statement that it “supports prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination as a matter of policy and will continue to monitor legal developments on this issue.” The HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCS) clarified in the statement:

“OCR concludes that Section 1557’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex includes, at a minimum, sex discrimination related to an individual’s sexual orientation where the evidence establishes that the discrimination is based on gender stereotypes. Accordingly, OCR will evaluate complaints alleging sex discrimination related to an individual’s sexual orientation to determine whether they can be addressed under Section 1557.”

Today’s ruling is one more in a string of Obama Administration actions this week meant to limit discrimination against transgender people in states without comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination laws.

Also on today’s docket were Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE) directives instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that align with their gender identity or face sanctions from the federal government. And earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the DOJ was filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over HB 2.

Celebrate this historic week and tell federal officials thanks for taking a stand for transgender youth by clicking here and signing our Thank You card.

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