Biden administration restores protections for gay and transgender Americans seeking health care | CNN Policy


The Biden administration on Friday announced a new rule that expanded safeguards against potential discrimination against gay and transgender Americans seeking medical care, in a reversal of Trump-era restrictions that rolled back health care protections federal funds for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In a sweeping set of new rules unveiled by the Department of Health and Human Services, the department moved to advance the protection of patients’ civil rights by preventing federally funded health care providers and insurers from discriminating against those seeking care because of gender identity or sexual orientation. The HHS rule restores Obama-era protections for transgender patients that the Trump administration rolled back in 2020, a move that was condemned by LGBTQ+ human rights and advocacy organizations.

Today’s rule is a giant step forward for this country toward a more equitable and inclusive health care system, and it means Americans across the country now have a clear way to act on their rights against discrimination when they go to the doctor, they talk to their health. Plan or participate with HHS-led health programs, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Friday.

The finalized rule comes as access to gender-based care for transgender youth has become mired in political controversy, with more than 20 states in recent years seeking to restrict youth access to such care. As conflicting rulings on state-level bans have emerged from lower courts across the country, the Supreme Court has faced increasing pressure to consider the matter.

The challenged rule comes from Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in specific health programs or activities. The new HHS guidelines state that while Section 1557 prohibits sex Discrimination includes LGBTQ+ patients and prohibitions that limit access to care based on a patient’s assigned sex at birth or exemptions from gender identity based on the religious beliefs of health care providers.

A 2016 interpretation of the clause under President Barack Obama expanded the ban on sex discrimination to cover gender identity, but HHS underTrump announced, on the four-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub attack, that impinges on certain provisions of the 2016 Rule that exceeded the scope of authority delegated by Congress in Section 1557.

HHS will enforce Section 1557 by returning to governments the interpretation of sex discrimination based on the plain meaning of the word sex as male or female and as determined by biology, the 2020 statement said. quickly met legal opposition from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and was blocked by a federal judge a day before it took effect.

The Biden administration in 2021 announced its intention to protect transgender Americans from health care discrimination through Section 1557 and Title IX regulations, citing a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that stated that federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender workers.

Friday’s expansion of civil rights protections was applauded by human rights and LGBTQ+ groups, and Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson praised the HHS rule as a crucial step by the administration Biden-Harris in the fight for full health equity for LGBTQ+ Americans.

Countless Americans can now take comfort in knowing that they can’t be taken away from the health care they need just because of who they are or who they love, he said in a statement to CNN.

CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.

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