Biden administration announces reversal of Trump-era limits on protections for transgender people in health care

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is reversing a policy introduced under former President Donald Trump that limited protections for transgender people in health care, the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday.

In a victory for LGBTQ advocates, the change will bar health care providers and other health-related organizations who receive federal funding from discriminating based on someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s why today HHS announced it will act on related reports of discrimination,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

He added, “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences. 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 also said in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday, “There was a provision in the Affordable Care Act which said that, and so now it’s clear, there’s no ambiguity, you cannot discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The Trump administration in June 2020 finalized its rollback of protections against gender identity discrimination in health care regulated by Obamacare. HHS announced that it would recognize “sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.”

Days later, the Supreme Court ruled that existing federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status.

A day before the Trump policy was set to take effect in August 2020, however, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the regulation.

HHS said Monday that 25 percent of LGBTQ people who have faced discrimination postponed or avoided receiving necessary medical care because they feared further discrimination.

“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health, who in March became the first openly transgender person confirmed by the Senate to a federal post. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

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