The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that the health care protection of gay and transgender people will be protected against sex discrimination. The action is a reversal of Donald Trump´s approach which attempted to narrow the scope of legal rights in this context.
As it was reported by Fox News, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights said it would interpret and enforce Section 1557 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in covered health programs or activities andTitle IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
The announcement states that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people. Trump´s policy considered “sex” as the gender assigned at birth, excluding, therefore, transgender people from the law’s protection scope.
“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Monday. “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.”
Becerra said the new Biden administration policy would bring HHS into line with a landmark Supreme Court decision last year in a workplace discrimination case, which established that federal laws against sex discrimination on the job also protect gay and transgender people.
Monday’s action also implies that the HHS Office for Civil Rights will again investigate complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hospitals, clinics and other medical providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.
Gay and transgender rights restored
The Biden administration initiative is restoring a policy established during the Obama administration. The Affordable Care Act included a prohibition on sex discrimination in health care and the Obama administration had interpreted that to apply to gay and transgender people as well.
Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine said about gay and gender protection that the mission of the department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, “no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”