Biden Administration Restores Health Protections for Transgender Patients

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

The Biden Administration restored protections for LGBTQ+ patients whose rights to health care were challenged by a Trump-era erosion of protections that put transgender Americans at particular risk.

New policies that the Department of Health and Human Services unveiled April 26 "advance civil rights protections for patients by barring health providers and insurers receiving federal funding from discriminating against those seeking care on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation," CNN explained.

"The HHS rule restores Obama-era protections for transgender patients that the Trump administration rolled back in 2020," the report noted, before adding that the Trump-era curtailment of health-related rights was handed down on the fourth anniversary of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida – an attack carried out on June 12, 2016, by a lone gunman that left 49 people dead and 53 others wounded.

"The finalized rule comes as access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth has been tangled in political controversy, with more than 20 states in recent years attempting to restrict youth access to such care," the CNN report noted.

But the Biden administration's restoration of rights for LGBTQ+ – and especially transgender – Americans may not be the final word.

"As conflicting rulings on state-level bans have emerged from lower-level courts across the country, the Supreme Court has faced mounting pressure to consider the matter," CNN pointed out.

Still, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sounded a note of optimism. The Hill reported that Becerra said in an April 26 statement, "Today's rule is a giant step forward for this country toward a more equitable and inclusive health care system, and means that Americans across the country now have a clear way to act on their rights against discrimination when they go to the doctor, talk with their health plan or engage with health programs run by HHS."

"The rule involves protections in Section 1557 of the ACA that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability in certain health programs and activities," The Hill clarified, before noting that the Trump administration erased trans people from the rule's protections by "narrow[ing] the definition of sex to only mean 'biological sex,'" which triggered worries "that the [Trump era] policies would have made it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender and nonbinary patients, as well as women who have had abortions."

A battle has been ongoing over the rights of health care providers to withhold treatment from LGBTQ+ people and others of whom they might disapprove based on religious beliefs of moral convictions. The new rule also made room for such health care providers. The Hill said: "Those protections say health providers are not engaging in discrimination if they decline to provide abortion or any other care if it conflicts with a 'sincerely-held belief.'"

The HHS under Biden lost little time in addressing the loss of civil protections for LGBTQ+ patients. CNN recalled, "The Biden administration in 2021 announced its intention to protect transgender Americans from health care discrimination through Section 1557 and Title IX regulations, citing a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed federal civil rights law bars discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender workers."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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