The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is expected to announce a final rule in the coming weeks that reverses federal protections prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in health care.
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Lawa think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policystated that the regulation could create added barriers to accessing healthcare for an estimated 1.4 million adults and 150,000 youth who identify as transgender in the United States, including the significant number who have underlying health conditions that put them at particular risk of serious illness related to COVID-19.
Recent research from the Williams Institute found that an estimated 320,000 transgender adults have underlying health conditions that could increase their risk for COVID-19-related illness. This includes 208,500 who have asthma, 81,100 who have diabetes, 72,700 who have heart disease and 74,800 who have HIV. In addition, an estimated 217,000 transgender people are 65 and older.
"Our research finds that transgender people experience health disparities compared to cisgender people and often lack access to health care," said Jody L. Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. "They also face persistent discrimination in healt care settings, which is a concern for many transgender adults."
No federal statute expressly protects transgender people from discrimination in healthcare. The new rule will affect HHS regulations protections that were guaranteed under the agency's former interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to address the breadth of sex discrimination protections in employment discrimination laws during its current term, which could affect the validity of the new HHS interpretation.