HHS includes trans people in health care rule that bans sex discrimination

By Kay Steiger
Monday, August 6, 2012 15:22 EDT
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People participate in an LGBT pride parade. Photo: Clive Chilvers / Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clarified recently that the much-touted rule that says health insurance companies can not discriminate based on sex also extends to trans people.

“This anti-discrimination law, enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, creates an important new tool to combat anti-LGBT and especially anti-transgender discrimination in health care,” said National Center for Transgender Equality (CTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling in a press release.

This clarification determines that section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which “extends federal nondiscrimination protections to the health care system for the first time,” according to an analysis by left-of-center policy and advocacy organization the Center for American Progress.

Any trans person who experiences gender discrimination at a hospital, clinic, doctor’s office or other medical center that accepts federal dollars through Medicare or Medicaid can file a complaint with HHS and “expect to have those complaints taken seriously,” according to the CTE press release.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled this spring that gender identity was covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination, offering unprecedented protections for trans people under existing employment discrimination law.

When the EEOC issued its ruling in April, Masen Davis, head of the Transgender Law Center, told LGBT newspaper Metro Weekly, “Given the incredibly high rate of employment discrimination facing transgender people, this is incredibly significant for us. … This creates a whole new fabric of legal support for our community.”

And the new HHS ruling is another thread in that fabric of support, but should a less trans-friendly administration come into power, such a ruling on sex discrimination could be easily reversed.

CTE’s Keisling said, “A law explicitly banning health care discrimination based on gender identity is the next step. Our community needs medical providers to know what their obligations are and passing a law is the strongest and clearest way to do that.”

You can see the letters sent to HHS requesting a clarification here, and HHS’ response here.

[Disclosure: This writer was once employed by CAP.]

[Photo of pride parade via Shutterstock]

Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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