“This is the first step for the Biden administration on this,” said Katie Keith, a consultant and a member of the research faculty at Georgetown University, who has been closely tracking the many lawsuits related to the civil rights provision. “This is nowhere near the end for them.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, urged Mr. Becerra to move quickly to go beyond Monday’s announcement and pledged the group’s help to win support for broader change in the government’s health care regulations.
“Planned Parenthood is ready to continue working with the administration on next steps to repeal the harmful Trump-era rule and ensure all people can access the health care they need,” Ms. Johnson said.
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act established broad civil rights protections in health care, barring discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in “any health program or activity” that receives federal financial assistance. Under the Obama administration’s 2016 interpretation, health care providers and insurers would have been required to provide and cover medically appropriate treatment for transgender patients, including hormone treatment, cancer screening and surgeries.
Both the Obama and Trump interpretations of the law have prompted lawsuits around the country, resulting in an often-conflicting legal record.
Even without all the details specified in the announcement, Monday’s action could have wide-ranging implications for doctors, hospitals, clinics and other parts of the country’s sprawling health care industry.
The new policy comes amid a flurry of state legislative activity related to the medical treatment of transgender adolescents. More than 10 states have considered or passed bills this year that would prohibit medical providers from providing certain medications, hormones or surgeries to transgender teenagers. Providers in those states may find themselves in a bind — subject to potential criminal penalties if they treat the children, or federal discrimination penalties if they do not.
“It is really difficult and challenging with these state laws that are targeting trans youth,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the assistant health secretary and the Biden administration’s highest-ranking transgender official. “There is a disconnect between these laws and our interpretation of 1557 in terms of preventing discrimination against these kids. There will need to be legal analysis about that inconsistency.”