The US will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care, the Biden administration announced Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy that sought to narrow the scope of legal rights in sensitive situations involving medical care. The action by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people, reports the AP. 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.”
Becerra said the Biden administration policy will bring HHS into line with a landmark Supreme Court decision last year in a workplace discrimination case, which established that federal laws against sex discrimination on the job also protect gay and transgender people. Despite that ruling, the Trump administration proceeded to try to narrow the legal protections against health care discrimination, issuing rules that narrowly defined “sex” as biological gender. A federal judge had blocked those rules from taking effect, although Trump administration officials argued that as a legal matter health care discrimination was a separate issue from the employment case the Supreme Court decided. Monday's action means that the HHS Office for Civil Rights will again investigate complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.
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