Updated: Jun 14, 2020
The Trump administration, in finalizing a rule to end nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care and health insurance, says it "respects the dignity of every human being."
Just the opposite. That action, which undoes yet another Obama administration initiative, disrespects anyone who does not fit Trump's view of humanity. Ironically, it comes during Gay Pride Month, perhaps intentionally.
"HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress," said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, in announcing that the HHS rule, set to take effect by mid-August, had become final.
Explained NPR.org, the rule deals with nondiscrimination protections contained in the Affordable Care Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of "race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities." In 2016, an Obama-era rule explained that protections regarding "sex" include those based on gender identity, which it defined as "male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female."
But when the Trump administration proposed the new rule last June, Severino said, "We're going back to the plain meaning of those terms, which is based on biological sex."
Under the new rule, a transgender person could be refused care for a checkup at a doctor's office, Lindsey Dawson, associate director of HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation told NPR. A transgender man could be denied treatment for ovarian cancer, or a hysterectomy not being covered by an insurer — or costing more when the procedure is related to someone's gender transition.
“We know that LGBTQ people experience discrimination at disproportionately higher rates when seeking medical care which, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, led to devastating health outcomes,” said Sasha Buchert, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project.
“The Trump administration has enshrined its discriminatory interpretation into the HHS rule book but that does not – and cannot – actually change the law. However, this is enough to cause confusion and hurt our communities, especially transgender people and people of color who already face elevated rates of discrimination in health care settings. This rule change serves no other purpose than to target and discriminate against LGBTQ people," Bucher said. "The cruelty is the point.”
“Today’s rule is a tragically failed public health policy and just flat out illegal,” said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney and Health Care Strategist. “We will be challenging the rule because at a time when the entire world is battling a dangerous pandemic, which in the United States has infected more than 2,000,000 people and killed more than 116,000, it is critical for everyone to have ready access to the potentially life-saving health care they need. LGBTQ people need to know that they continue to have rights and Lambda Legal will fight back. If you experience discrimination when seeking health care because of your sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status you should contact us immediately.”
It should be no surprise that the Office for Civil Rights at HHS would take such action under Severino. He joined the Trump administration from the conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, where he wrote a paper on gender protections in Section 1557.
A devout Catholic, he has made protections of religious freedom a key focus, including the right of doctors to refuse to provide care that contradicts their religious or moral beliefs.
Until Donald Trump is removed from office, such actions will continue by this administration with its misguided, sexist attitudes about sexuality and humanity.