Officials in California, New York and Illinois have rushed to tell health insurers in their states that their states continue to have regulations protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people against discrimination in health care and health insurance.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of removing prohibitions on discrimination based on gender identity in federal health care programs from federal regulations. HHS officials contend that the provisions, which were added during the administration of former President Barack Obama, to implement Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, exceed the scope of HHS officials’ statutory authority.
PPACA Section 1557 does not mention any specific class of protected people directly. It instead directs regulators to look at four other federal civil rights laws. Some of those laws refer to discrimination based on sex, but none refer explicitly to sexual orientation or gender identity.
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HHS is also changing the discrimination regulations affecting people with low ability to use English, or “low English proficiency.”
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has issued a notice to California health insurers stating that health insurers must continue to comply with California’s antidiscrimination laws.
“Despite the federal government’s harmful stance towards the LGBTQ+ community, in California, we respect the right to health care regardless of gender or sexual orientation,” Lara says in his statement. “I will continue to fight to ensure all Californians, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and English proficiency, have access to quality health care and will work to vociferously defend this right in court.”
Lara pointed to this week’s U.S. Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in favor of workers suing over allegations of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, as a sign the administration of President Donald Trump is on the wrong side on the LGBT issue.
In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put out a statement hailing the Supreme Court ruling and condemning the HHS regulation change.