In response to letters from LGBT health and advocacy groups, the Department of Health and Human Services announced in letter made public yesterday that, under the Affordable Care Act, discrimination based on gender identity will not be tolerated. Leon Rodriguez, director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, stated in a written response to the groups that federally-funded health care programs are barred from discriminating against transgender people. This inclusion does not, however, mean that trans-specific health care, such as transition-related procedures, will be included in coverage.
The National Center for Transgender Equality’s executive director Mara Keisling notes that one in five transgender people report being turned away from a health care provider. “HHS affirms our position that these abuses are now clearly illegal,” said Keisling. She remarked that this position will hopefully be a tool to get to the next step of covering trans-specific health care.
Trans and health care advocates assert that it is important for trans people to know their rights regarding health care, and to contact HHS when they experience discrimination. The HHS Office of Civil Rights will soon release guidelines for how to respond to health care discrimination. Trans activist Jos Truitt writes, “a law specifically targeting [trans] discrimination would be a valuable next step, and showing that the need exists could help make this a reality.”
Media Resources: Washington Blade 8/7/12; Feministing 8/6/12; BuzzFeed 8/6/12; National Center for Transgender Equality Press Release