Trump administration proposes rolling back transgender health care protections

Trump administration proposes rolling back transgender health care protections
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A new proposal from the Trump administration would roll back health care protections for transgender people.

The proposed regulation, announced Friday, scraps ObamaCare's definition of "sex discrimination" to remove protections for gender identity.

That provision said patients cannot be turned away because they are transgender, nor can they be denied coverage if they need a service that’s related to their transgender status. 

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The announcement follows a series of moves that bolster efforts by religious conservatives to narrowly define gender and gender protections. Earlier this month, the administration finalized rules making it easier for health workers and institutions to deny treatment to people if it would violate their religious or moral beliefs.

In addition, the Department of Housing and Urban Development this week proposed a rule that would also roll back transgender protections in housing, by allowing federally funded shelters to turn away transgender people for religious reasons.

The military’s transgender ban also took effect earlier this month, despite objections from advocacy groups and medical experts.

Roger Severino, director of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights, said the change is meant to make the agency “more consistent” with what other agencies are doing and what Congress intended.

According to the proposal, one agency’s implementation and enforcement of a civil rights law that is inconsistent with other agencies would result in “confusion” for the public.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” Severino said.

The existing health care rule was first issued in 2016, six years after the 2010 Affordable Care Act was signed into law. The rule prohibited providers and insurers who receive federal money from denying treatment or coverage to anyone based on sex, gender identity or termination of pregnancy.

Advocates argue removing those protections will allow health care providers, hospitals and insurers to discriminate against transgender patients.

Severino emphasized the change will save the agency money and is being done to conform to a nationwide injunction against enforcing the current policy.

During a call with reporters, he said HHS will continue to “vigorously” enforce civil rights protections for federally protected classes based on race, color, national origin, disability and sex.

“We believe in the inherent human dignity of all people,” Severino said. “Part of our mission is to make sure the health and well being of all Americans is furthered. That is not changing by this rule.”

Updated at 10:08 a.m.