Trump Administration Revokes Health Care Protections For Transgender Patients

Julie Scagell

President Trump rolled back an Obama-era mandate that protected transgender patients

On the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre and during Pride month, the Trump administration has decided to reverse important non-discrimination health care protections for transgender patients originally put in place by President Obama.

When members of Congress passed the 2010 Affordable Care Act, it prohibited health care providers that receive federal funding to discriminate against any patients on the basis of sex, a phrase that Obama expanded beyond one’s biological sex to include the variety of gender identities that many Americans embrace.

However, Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, reversed Obama’s inclusive ruling, saying the anti-discrimination provisions of the ACA only apply to “male or female as determined by biology,” and that when Obama stated that health care providers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, Severino argues that they meant “the plain meaning of the term.”

The Trump administration’s rationale, in part, is that this will remove “costly and unnecessary regulatory burdens” that they estimate was costing American taxpayers $2.9 billion. According to The New York Times, the rule is part of a broader Trump administration effort to change the legal definition of sex discriminations across several sectors, so that protections against transgender people will be dramatically reduced.

The move is seen as an enormous setback for LGBTQ rights. “It’s about the right of every American to be treated with dignity when they walk into an emergency room, meet a new doctor or find the right insurance plan. If permitted, this rule will promote ignorance and hate that no American should have to face while seeking care,” Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in May when the administration first announced its intent to reverse the mandate.

The Washington Post reports that the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project both said they would challenge the rule in court in an attempt to reverse it. “This rule change serves no other purpose than to target and discriminate against LGBTQ people. The cruelty is the point,” Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

Under the original 2016 ACA rule, health care providers and insurers were required to provide and cover all medically appropriate treatment for transgender people. This, however, was never implemented under the Trump administration who vowed to make changes to the definition of gender under ACA.

The move is also concerning many for its timing during a global pandemic. “It’s really, really horrendous to not only gut nondiscrimination protections, but to gut nondiscrimination protections in the middle of a pandemic,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the deputy executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Times. “This rule opens a door for a medical provider to turn someone away for a Covid-19 test just because they happen to be transgender.”

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