In a first-of-its-kind decision, a federal court ruled Monday that the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) prohibits disrimination against a patient based on their gender identity, reports the National Center for Transgender Equality.
The decision clarified that health care providers and hospitals accepting federal Medicare or Medicaid funds are subject to the ACA's prohibition of discrimination based on sex, which extends to transgender individuals. This interpretation is akin to with recent federal decisions on Title IX protections for trans students and Title VII protections for trans employees.
The ruling was handed down in a federal lawsuit known Rumble v. Fairview Health Services, filed in June by Minnesota's Gender Justice on behalf of a young trans man who claimed his Minnesota hospital allegedly misgendered, ridiculed, gave "careless and assaultive" exams, and generally provided him substandard care because of his trans identity. His lawsuit states that he faced such treatment for six days after being admitted following an emergency room visit for genitourinary pain, according to NCTE.
While the hospital argued that antitrans bias is not prohibited under the ACA, NCTE noted that the comprehensive healthcare reform law does, in fact, provide a means to address "civil rights" complaints to the Department of Health and Human Services -- but that very few citizens are aware of this provision, and it has therefore gone largely untested until now.
In light of the federal court's groundbreaking announcement, the Center's policy director, Harper Jean Tobin, urged trans people to stand up for themselves when facing discrimination from health care providers.
"Having recently experienced a stay in a hospital myself, I know that no matter who you are, if you are trans the fear of mistreatment in medical settings in constant," she stated. "When it happens, trans people need to know that, no matter where you live, there's something you can do."