We’ve written several times on this blog about how the administration of President Joe Biden is overturning policies that former President Donald Trump put in place at the behest of his Christian nationalist allies.
Another one of these cruel policies fell yesterday when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) announced that it is rejecting a Trump-era regulation that sought to change how the civil rights protections in the Affordable Care Act are administered by removing protections that are guaranteed under the ACA. As a result, the Trump rule would have made it harder for many people, especially those who are transgender, to receive the health care they need and advocate for their rights.
Section 1557 of the ACA protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability in many health programs and activities. The term “sex” has been interpreted to include gender identity and sexual orientation and provide protection for pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. The provision bars hospitals, doctors and insurers from discriminating against individuals seeking health care services or coverage.
Although the legislation didn’t explicitly include protections for “gender identity,” the Obama administration, based on court rulings, confirmed those protections in a regulation.
Nevertheless, Trump pushed out a final rule, which Americans United opposed, that sought to impose a narrow definition of “sex” that threatened LGBTQ rights – right before the U.S. Supreme Court was due to rule in Bostock v. Clayton County, which confirmed that a bar on sex discrimination protects members of the LGBTQ community.
Because the Trump rule’s provisions that would have harmed LGBTQ people would have conflicted with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock, a federal court blocked them, and they never went into effect. And yesterday, HSS made it clear that LGBTQ people should not face discrimination in health care.
Announcing the change, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra remarked, “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences. Everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
Absolutely. This development is also a reminder of the important role presidential administrations play in shaping policy at the federal level. During the Trump years, many of the decisions made by federal agencies were unduly influenced by Christian nationalist groups. Biden is rolling those back. That angers the Christian nationalists, but people of goodwill who oppose discrimination and reject hate know why it’s the decent thing to do.