HHS: Healthcare Act Protects Transgender Patients

Discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation prohibited

In response to a letter sent by several LGBT organizations seeking clarification of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has confirmed that sex-based discrimination prohibited by the ACA includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotypes—specifically counting transgender individuals.

HHS’s clarification follows a trend among courts and government agencies in interpreting sex discrimination laws to include discrimination against transgender people. Last April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled in Macy v. Holder that transgender employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

HHS Civil Rights Director Leon Rodriquez stated, “We [HHS] agree that [the health care law’s] sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and will accept such complaints for investigation.”

“This is an important clarification for all transgender people, who so often face extraordinary barriers in accessing health care,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, one of the groups who sent the letter. “I’m incredibly proud of Transgender Law Center, our partner organizations, and the thousands of individual advocates who have made this moment possible through years of tireless education and advocacy.”

Transgender patients who experience discrimination from service providers that accept Medicare, Medicaid, or other types of federal funding should file complaints of discrimination with HHS. Transgender Law Center’s legal helpline (transgenderlawcenter.org) is available as a resource to help transgender patients navigate the complaint process.

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