HHS Rolls Back Trump Policy Enabling Discrimination in Health Care

Written by SK Ashby

The Trump regime used a whole-government approach to attack transgender rights and access to health care was no exception. The regime made broad attempts to limit or reduce civil rights for transgender Americans in education, housing, and health care.

The Biden administration has progressively rolled back the Trump-era policies and this week the administration is rolling back the policy that enabled discrimination in health care.

The policy announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people. The Trump administration had defined “sex” to mean gender assigned at birth, thereby excluding transgender people from the law’s umbrella of protection.

“Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

Like the other changes that came before it, this is a reflection of the Biden administration's view that the Supreme Court has already settled the matter.

As much as Justice Neal Gorsuch tried to limit the scope of the court's ruling, once the court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to gender identity, that unofficially settled the matter of civil rights law as it applies to transgender Americans. But unfortunately, it will take years for that ruling to fully sink in.

This is more than just a symbolic change in policy and the Biden administration apparently intends to put some real teeth behind it. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has opened a new web portal to report instances of being denied access to transition-related health care under Medicaid and compliant insurance plans listed on the Obamacare marketplace.

This is a very big deal because transgender people are fortunate if they can afford health insurance at all, but even if they can many are still denied access to transition care. Health insurers like to say that procedures like breast augmentation and facial feminization surgery are purely cosmetic and unnecessary, but I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth. Not every transgender person needs those procedures to feel comfortable about themselves, but for those who do they are literally life-saving procedures. They're also relatively low cost procedures compared to far more significant things covered by insurance.

Republicans say this policy could force doctors to perform gender reassignment surgeries against their will, but that is ridiculous. These procedures are carried about by professionals who chose that field of surgery. Not just anyone can swap your bits on a weekend. It doesn't work that way.