On Friday, Health and community advocates condemned the Trump Administration new rule to undermine the enforcement of the civil rights provision (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act, designed to protect patients from discrimination in health care. This rule is cruel and callous attempt to spread confusion and embolden health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate against LGBTQ, and in particular transgender and nonbinary, patients, women in need of reproductive services, persons with limited English Proficiency (LEP) and persons with disabilities.
The timing of this rule – released during a pandemic that disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people and people of color, during Pride month, and on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub tragedy – is especially inhumane.
Anticipating this ruling, last week California consumer groups, including the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, the Disability Rights Defense and Education Fund, and the California LGBTQ HHS Network, a program of Health Access California, sent a letter to California health regulators, urging to send a clear message that our nondiscrimination protections remain intact and will be enforced. They urged DMHC, DOI and DHCS to re-issue California non-discrimination guidance that stresses the fact that any federal agency changes to Section 1557 do not exempt California insurance issuers and providers from California laws on language access, transgender services, protections for people with disabilities, and more.
The California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network condemns the Trump administration’s latest move attacking transgender health. LGBTQ people have historically faced tremendous barriers to accessing health care: from pre-existing conditions rules that blocked transgender people and people living with HIV from obtaining health insurance, to denials of routine care, to a shortage of culturally-competent health care providers. We have made tremendous strides over the past decade – both nationally and here in California – to expand access to care for transgender people. This rule sends a dangerous message to trans people that we are going backward, or that their health care rights have been revoked.
We’ve seen this fear close to home, with the Network’s Program Coordinator, Dannie Ceseña, sharing, “The first thought that ran through my mind when I read about the repeal of Section 1557 was ‘How will this affect me? Have I lost my protection to receive adequate health care services?’ Then I noticed my trans siblings on social media were having the same knee jerk reaction that I was. I am not the only one panicking, filled with anxiety, and wondering ‘what are my rights in this situation?’.”
We must be clear: the health care industry is not entitled to discriminate against patients based on sexual orientation or gender identity. California law, including the Insurance Gender Nondiscrimination Act, prohibits health plans denying care on the basis of a patient’s actual or perceived gender identity.
To our trans siblings, you have every right to access health care here in California – and any assertion to the contrary is plain wrong. We will continue to work to expand and improve access to health care and eliminate health inequities for LGBTQ people here in California and beyond.
The Trump Administration is once again attacking and harming our health care, this time reversing regulations against discrimination by health care providers. This calculatingly cruel rule, released in the middle of a pandemic when we all have an interest they everyone get the care and coverage they need, will exacerbate some the inequities and disparities that have been highlighted recently. While we must seek to undo this travesty at the federal level in the next few years, California regulators and policymakers should act quickly to be clear with insurers and providers about our protections and expectations against discrimination.
Read more here from the CA LGBTQ HHS Network blog: