(May 13, 2016, New York, NY) – The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today finalized new rules confirming that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are protected against health care discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in health care services and programs receiving federal funding. The new rules confirm that individuals cannot be denied health care or health insurance coverage based on their sex, including their gender identity, nonconformity with sex stereotypes, including the stereotype that all people are, or should be, heterosexual, or the sex of the person with whom the individual is in a relationship.
Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement:
“We commend HHS for issuing these regulations, the product of several years of research, careful review, and inclusive consideration. These rules will dramatically improve the public health landscape for LGBTQ populations that suffer persistent health disparities due to pervasive bias and discrimination in health care settings and insurance coverage. Also importantly, the regulations do not include any new religious exemption to their implementation.
“Transgender people, in particular, have faced extreme mistreatment for far too long. These new rules will save lives by clarifying that discrimination based on gender identity is unlawful sex discrimination. Under these rules, categorical exclusions of gender transition-related care are impermissible, and individuals must be afforded access to facilities and programs consistent with their gender identity.
“The rules also recognize that discrimination based on sex stereotypes or the sex of someone’s partner or spouse is unlawful sex discrimination. As numerous federal courts have held, federal civil rights laws protect LGBTQ people against mistreatment based on sex stereotypes, including discrimination based on lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity.
”Our organizations have an extensive track record representing LGBTQ people who have experienced discrimination in health care services and insurance, and are continuing to do so today. The new Section 1557 rule is an important marker of civil rights and public health progress, and we anticipate vigorous enforcement efforts aimed at ending all unlawful discrimination in health care settings.”