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HHS expected to propose rolling back non-discrimination protections for more than 1.5 million transgender people
2019-05-24

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights ( OCR ) is expected to announce tomorrow or soon after a proposed regulation that attempts to roll back existing federal protections prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in health care.

The Williams Institute estimates that the regulation if issued as anticipated and finalized means that OCR would refuse to enforce protections against gender identity discrimination for the 1.4 million transgender adults and 150,000 transgender teensages 13 to 17 in the U.S.

A reversal of the existing protections would have an even greater impact on people who live in the 28 states that lack legal protections from gender identity discrimination in public accommodations, such as health care facilities. Based on Williams Institute research, more than 780,000 transgender people—705,000 transgender adults and 78,000 transgender youth—live in those states. Because these individuals lack state-level protections, federal law offers the only remedy if they are turned away from, or provided sub-standard, health care or insurance coverage based on their gender identity. But OCR's proposed regulation is likely to attempt to deprive these individuals of any federal protection from gender identity discrimination.

Section 1557, the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, bans sex discrimination in federally funded health care. The health care non-discrimination regulation implementing Section 1557 currently provides that the law's ban on sex discrimination applies to discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity, consistent with numerous court decisions.

"Explicit gender identity protections were adopted in response to an overwhelming record of anti-transgender discrimination and barriers to health care and health coverage," said Williams Institute Executive Director Jocelyn Samuels, the former director of OCR who led the process of drafting the original regulations implementing Section 1557. "A reversal of these protections would be contrary to numerous court decisions and any fair reading of the statute and would seriously endanger the health and wellbeing of an especially vulnerable population."

—From a press release

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.


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