The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in certain programs and activities.
As President Obama’s second term came to a close, his administration released a regulation that redefined “sex” to include “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “termination of pregnancy.”
However, the Trump administration reversed this progress, narrowing the definition of “sex” so that it no longer protects LGBTQ+ people.
Now the White House plans to undo the damage that Trump did.
LGBTQ+ People Deserve Access To Health Care
The proposed legislation would bring much-needed clarity to the definition of the Affordable Care Act. By making it clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited, the proposed legislation would help to ensure that LGBTQ+ people can access the health care they need without fear of discrimination.
All Women Deserve Access To Health Care
In addition, this measure would clarify that pregnancy and related conditions are also protected by the definition of the Affordable Care Act. This is an important change, as the law currently provides no explicit protection for pregnant women, and those who wish to have an abortion. The proposed legislation would help ensure that all women are treated fairly and equally under the law.
A Victory For Inclusion In Health Care
LGBTQ rights organizations have welcomed the Biden administration’s announcement to ban health care discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Counsel and health care strategist for Lambda Legal Omar Gonzalez-Pagan
In a statement, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a counsel and health care strategist for Lambda Legal, said “the Trump administration wrongly and unlawfully sought to eliminate these much-needed protections for LGBTQ+ people and people with limited English proficiency, among others, by carving them out from the rule and limiting the scope of entities to whom the rule applied.”
He continued by saying that this announcement marks a “pivotal moment in restoring regulatory nondiscrimination protections for those who need them most” while ensuring the “further reach possible” of the ACA’s healthcare nondiscrimination law.
Gonzalo Gonzalez-Pagan noted that this rule will particularly benefit transgender people, non-English speakers, immigrants, people of color, and people with disabilities, who often face barriers to accessing quality health care.
Gonzalez-Pagan also spoke about the need for health care professionals to provide essential care to all patients, regardless of identity.
Federal policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights Julianna S. Gonen
Federal policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights Julianna S. Gonen also praised the decision. She said the ruling rehabilitates the Affordable Care Act’s “core promise of healthcare for all” and creates an inclusive healthcare system.
“We are thrilled to see that the Biden administration intends to implement section 1557, the ACA’s nondiscrimination provision, consistent with federal sex and religious liberty discrimination law and without creating sweeping new exemptions that would endanger healthcare for all,” Gonen said. “We support the proposed rule enthusiastically and look forward to its final adoption.”
On its side, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the recent decision to reinstate and strengthen the Affordable Care Rule is part of the president’s commitment to advancing “gender and health equity and civil rights.”
Acting HHS Office for Civil Rights Melanie Fontes Rainer
In a press release, Melanie Fontes Rainer, acting HHS Office for Civil Rights, emphasized the importance of the administration’s commitment to “stand up for those around the country whose voices often go unheard.”
She said that officials are “working to ensure they can access healthcare free from discrimination.”
The proposed rule is “a giant step” in this effort, and she hopes it will help make health care more accessible and inclusive for all.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra
Given the increase in attacks on women, transgender youth, and health care providers, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra reiterated the need to stand “with communities in need is critical.”
“Healthcare should be a right not dependent on looks, location, love, language, or the type of care someone needs,” he said.
The new rule is a welcome one that will help to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community can receive the care they need without fear of discrimination. This is an important message, especially in light of current local governments’ attempts to roll back health protections for millions of Americans.