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LGBTQ people and allies gathered for the 13th Annual Trans Day of Action on June 23, 2017. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'An Important Step': Biden's HHS Reverses Trump Attack on Healthcare Protections for Transgender People

A quarter of transgender Americans have avoided seeking medical care for fear of facing discriminatory treatment. 

Julia Conley

Rights advocates on Monday applauded the Biden administration's Health and Human Services Department as officials announced a reversal of Trump-era guidance which allowed the discrimination against transgender people in healthcare settings.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said the department will interpret an anti-discrimination section of the Affordable Care Act—which prohibites discrimination "on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability"—as the Obama administration did, extending protections for people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than just their sex assigned at birth.

"Everyone—including LGBTQ people—should be able to access healthcare, free from discrimination or interference, period."
—HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

Becerra cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision from last June, in which the court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be understood to cover sexual orientation and rejected former President Donald Trump's claim that "the ordinary meaning of 'sex' is biologically male or female," in a case pertaining to workplace discrimination. 

"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," said Becerra. "It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone—including LGBTQ people—should be able to access healthcare, free from discrimination or interference, period."

Under HHS's decision, healthcare organizations that receive federal funding and insurance companies will be barred from discriminating against transgender people. 

The Trump administration's stance, finalized in a rule that was introduced days before the Supreme Court's decision last year, subjected transgender and nonbinary people to invasive questions and stigmatizing treatment from healthcare providers as well as the potential to be turned away when seeking care. 

"Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences," said Becerra.

According to HHS, a quarter of LGBTQ people who have faced discrimination in healthcare settings have later postponed or avoided medical appointments.

The Transgender Law Center called the Biden administration's decision "vital," particularly as young transgender people in Arkansas and other states face threats to their ability to access gender-affirming care.  

"We welcome this return to the Obama-era policy banning discrimination against trans people accessing healthcare," the group said. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) called HHS's announcement "an important step" and called on the administration to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal laws, making clear that people must be protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Passage of the Equality Act would mean "LGBTQ+ people’s health—and lives—can't be used as a political football any longer," Jayapal said.


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