On Monday, the Biden administration announced that it will provide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in health care.
The new rules undo the Trump administration’s limiting of the definition of “sex”, which they narrowed to the gender one is assigned at birth, thereby excluding transgender and gender nonconforming individuals from legal protections. The new rules align with the recent Supreme Court ruling that determined “sex” includes gender identity and sexual orientation, which President Biden had directed government agencies to adhere to early in his term.
“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” said Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “Everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
The new policy prevent any entity that receives federal funding from discrimination based on sex, will allow the Office for Civil Rights to investigate claims of discrimination, and organizations, hospitals, clinics, and providers could face sanctions or be denied Medicare and Medicaid payments if found to be in violation of the new rules.
While the rules are likely to face challenges from anti-LGBTQ groups in the courts, many pro-LGBTQ rights advocates are celebrating the new policy.
“With health care for transgender youth under attack by state legislatures, this move to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in health care is critical. The Biden administration has affirmed what courts have said for decades: Discrimination against LGBTQ people is against the law. It also affirms what transgender people have long said: Gender-affirming care is life-saving care,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the American Civil Liberties Union LGBTQ & HIV Project.
The Biden administration did the right thing by terminating a short-lived effort to allow discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation when seeking health care. As we said in our letter to the previous administration, the interpretation was contrary to the intent and the plain language of the law. It’s unfortunate that such an obvious step had to be taken; the AMA welcomes this common-sense understanding of the law,” said American Medical Associate president Susan R. Bailey. “This move is a victory for health equity and ends a dismal chapter in which a federal agency sought to remove civil rights protections.”