The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced June 12 that it was rolling back health protections for transgender Americans that had previously been inscribed in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The rollback creates numerous additional barriers for how transgender people seek, access and utilize healthcare services. It is yet one more stumbling block that the Trump administration has set before its transgender constituents; earlier in Trump's term, the president announced a ban on transgender military personnel and his education officials have not assisted transgender students seeking redress for discrimination incidents in schools.
The administration's action removes transgender protections from Section 1557 of the ACA, which prohibits sex discrimination in federally-funded healthcare. There are no outright federal protections for transgender Americans currently on the books.
In a June 12 press release, officials from the Los Angeles-based Williams Institute noted that the change could potentially impact 1.4 million adults and 150,000 youth.
"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 healthcare settings, which is a concern for many transgender adults."
The release further noted the irresponsibility of making healthcare less accessible for anyone in the midst of a pandemic: "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 age 65 and older."
LGBTQ groups responded to HHS' decision. CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers stated, "Everyone should be able to see a doctor without worrying about being mistreated or denied service outright. LGBTQ+ people already face disturbing rates of health care discriminationfrom harassment and humiliation by providers to being turned away by hospitals, pharmacists, and doctors. As the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic, there could not be a more disgraceful time to allow the denial of medical care based on who you are."
"Today's action by HHS is not just a solution in search of a problem," said National Center for Lesbian Rights Federal Policy Director Julianna S. Gonen in a separate statement. "It is a shameful expression of hostility toward a community that regularly suffers denials of care and negative treatment in our healthcare system."
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) responded with the threat of action, announcing that it will file a lawsuit challenging the administration's decision. "We cannot and will not allow Donald Trump to continue attacking us. Today, the Human Rights Campaign is announcing plans to sue the Trump administration for exceeding their legal authority and attempting to remove basic health care protections from vulnerable communities including LGBTQ people. And, to add insult to injury, the administration finalized this rule on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting, where a gunman killed 49 people in an LGBTQ nightclub," said HRC President Alphonso David.
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