The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued new rules today confirming that LGBTQ people are protected against healthcare discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. These new rules confirm that healthcare services and coverage cannot be denied based on an individual’s 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. These provisions also provide important protections for women accessing healthcare services and coverage, ensuring that they cannot be charged more for services than men are charged, or denied coverage for preexisting conditions.
In addition to protecting against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the new rules issued by HHS today also provide important protections for people of color and people with disabilities. The rules explain that Section 1557 prohibits discrimination based on race and also importantly require healthcare providers to ensure that people with limited English proficiency can have meaningful access to healthcare. These requirements provide important and needed access to many Latinx, Asian American, Native American, Pacific Islander, and black patients seeking healthcare services. The rules also prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and require a wide range of accessibility services to be available.
Unfortunately for many immigrants, however, these protections will not allow them to seek vital healthcare services because they are largely excluded from healthcare coverage and protections. Additionally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed yesterday that they would begin a series of raids targeting immigrant families. This is expected to be the largest such deportation effort during the Obama Administration, and will particularly affect women and children fleeing violence from Central America.
NCLR applauds the Obama Administration and HHS for providing vital protections against discrimination in healthcare based on gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, and age. But we urge the Administration to provide the same thoughtful and humane treatment to those who have fled their home countries seeking safety and security.