Obama Administration extends nondiscrimination protections to transgender individuals seeking health care and directs schools to allow transgender students to use appropriate bathrooms.
New York, NY – The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) applauds the new regulations prohibiting health care discrimination against transgender people across the United States. Adopted today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the protections ensure equal access for communities that have long been excluded from the health care system.
These regulations clarify that discrimination against transgender people in health care facilities is unlawful. They also prohibit the widespread insurance industry practice of unfairly excluding coverage for medically necessary transgender-related health care. This prohibition applies to public insurance plans, such as Medicaid, and private plans where the insurer receives financial assistance from HHS, such as by selling plans through the health insurance marketplaces.
These regulations were enacted to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination provision, known as Section 1557. HHS first proposed the regulations last September. In November, TLDEF submitted comments expressing support for the rules as a means to improve the health of transgender Americans.
Statement from TLDEF Staff Attorney Noah Lewis:
“Transgender Americans have long suffered from a lack of access to care that most other people take for granted. These rules provide basic protections from discrimination and will go a long way toward improving the health of transgender Americans. We are thrilled they are now in force. As of today, health care facilities may no longer deny transgender people care because of who they are. And insurance companies may no longer deny coverage for care simply because the person who needs it is transgender. These regulations put doctors and insurance companies on notice that they must treat everyone fairly and equally. It is vital for transgender people to have equal access to medically necessary care, to be covered by insurance for that care, and to be treated with respect in medical settings.
“As we stated in our official comments to HHS, transgender people have long faced tremendous barriers to accessing care, which causes great harm to their health and well-being. Transgender-related health care is widely recognized as medically necessary by organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. The purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable care. Under these new rules, transgender people will finally be able to reap the benefits of our nation’s health care law.
“We look forward to seeing these regulations fully implemented throughout the health care system to ensure health care equality for transgender Americans. Transgender people need to know that they can report discriminatory treatment to HHS, and that their complaints will be taken seriously.”
TLDEF has also applauded the Obama Administration for issuing a directive to all public schools in the nation stating they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match who they are as boys and girls.
The U.S. Education and Justice Departments sent a letter and guidance to every school district in the U.S. reminding them of their obligations under Title IX to protect transgender students from discrimination, which includes ensuring that students can use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
The letter reads in part: “A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
The letter also states that “to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns. As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”
Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman:
“This action is a huge milestone in the fight to protect transgender students in our nation’s schools. We strongly commend the Obama Administration for giving schools this vital tool to ensure that all transgender students can learn in a safe environment, free from discrimination.
“TLDEF has been on the forefront of the fight for equal treatment of transgender students. In 2013, we won a landmark victory before the Colorado Civil Rights Division, when it ruled that 6-year-old Coy Mathis’ elementary school had unlawfully discriminated against her when it denied her access to the girls’ bathroom because she is transgender. That ruling opened the door for transgender students and their families to seek fairness and to demand that they be treated just like everyone else in school.
“Today’s directive by the federal government sends a strong and clear message: Transgender students may not be singled out for discrimination and must be treated equally in school.
“As transgender people continue to face a barrage of legislative attacks throughout the country focused on issues like bathroom access, today’s move by the federal government is a clear sign that the federal government, like the vast majority of Americans, stands on the side of fairness, justice and equal treatment for all Americans.”
Earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the DOJ was filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over HB 2.