The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in health care, stating a recent Supreme Court ruling codified such bias as illegal.
“The Supreme Court has made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s why today HHS announced it will act on related reports of discrimination,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, citing the 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences. It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
SCOTUS ruled in Bostock that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned employment discrimination based on "sex," applied to bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But after the June 2020 ruling, Trump administration officials resisted applying it to venues other than employment and also put out rules declaring "sex" only applied to gender assigned at birth, not gender identity. While a federal judge temporarily blocked the discriminatory rules from going into effect, they paved the way for LGBTQ+ people to be denied health services like gender confirmation surgery and HIV care and prevention.
Now HHS's new rules, announced Monday, revert back to Obama-era rules — established during the creation of the Affordable Care Act — that shielded LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. The rules from President Biden's administration are even more explicit when it comes to gay, bisexual, and trans people having full access to care. Discrimination discourages LGBTQ+ people from seeking services, putting their health at risk.
“The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant HHS secretary. “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”
Dr. Levine is first out trans person confirmed by the U.S. Senate to any position and the highest-ranking one ever in the federal government.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights will enforce the ban on anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, with hospital, clinics, and medical providers facing sanctions if they run afoul of it.