Biden Administration Prohibits Health Care Discrimination vs. Transgender People

The Biden administration announced Monday that health care providers cannot discriminate against transgender individuals, the latest step in President Biden’s efforts to restore civil rights protections for L.G.B.T.Q. people that were eliminated by his predecessor.

Under the new policy, the Department of Health and Human Services will once again prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by health care organizations that receive federal funding.

The move will reverse a policy adopted by H.H.S. under President Donald J. Trump which said that anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 did not apply to transgender people. That move had been hailed by social conservatives and harshly criticized by gay rights supporters.

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” Xavier Becerra, Mr. Biden’s health secretary, said in a statement. “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including L.G.B.T.Q. people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The move is part of a broader effort by the president to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people — and particularly transgender individuals — in protections against discrimination. In his first address to a joint session of Congress last month, Mr. Biden pledged his support for the Equality Act, which would broaden civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people: You’re so brave,” Mr. Biden said in his speech. “I want you to know your president has your back.”

Administration officials said the new policy is based on a ruling by the Supreme Court last summer in which the justices said that civil rights laws protects L.G.B.T.Q. workers from employment discrimination.

The health agency’s new approach does not cover employment, but officials cited the Supreme Court’s decision as support for the change. They said that the department’s Office of Civil Rights will interpret the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions to include “(1) discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; and (2) discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

The new interpretation will apply to “covered health programs or activities,” which includes doctors, hospitals and other health care organizations which receive public funding.

“The mission of our department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the department’s assistant secretary for health and the Biden administration’s most senior transgender official.

“All people need access to health care services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” she said. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

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