WASHINGTON — Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Office for Civil Rights will begin an effort to strengthen the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on discrimination in health care. The new proposed regulation would prohibit health care providers and insurers from denying care or discriminating against patients based on sex, which includes sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy and abortion. For the first time, those protections are specifically extended to care received via telemedicine.
Today's undertaking will help people lead healthy lives, without fear of discrimination in how or where they seek care. This proposed rule is a critical step in protecting people who already face discrimination and systemic barriers to accessing health care.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“With Roe overturned, we have called on leaders at all levels to act to support health care access that is free of judgment and discrimination. Today’s proposed rule is a critical step in making sure that people are not discriminated against because of their race, ethnicity, age, disability, national origin, and sex, which includes sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, and abortion. This is particularly essential as attacks on people seeking abortions–as well as trans people–have significantly escalated in recent months. We thank Secretary Becerra and the Biden-Harris administration for the ongoing partnership and focus on making sure everyone can access health care. We look forward to continued collaboration to ensure everyone can get the health care they need, when they need it.”
The consequences of discrimination in health care are clear and devastating: nearly one in three transgender people have faced discrimination with a health care provider, and this rate is higher for Black transgender people and other transgender people of color. In addition, as states move to ban and otherwise restrict abortion, protecting against discrimination based on pregnancy and abortion is especially important.
Under the Affordable Care Act, patients cannot be barred from participating in, be denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination by health providers and many health insurance plans on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, age, and disability. The Trump administration weakened Section 1557’s sex discrimination prohibitions by limiting which health insurance plans it applied to, inserting a religious exemption, removing protections for LGBTQ people and people seeking an abortion, and also eliminating protections for people with language access needs.
This announcement follows last year’s effort from the Biden administration to enforce 1557 prohibitions on discrimination, countering the previous administration’s move to weaken protections against discrimination in health care for the LGBTQ+ community. Earlier this month, the Office for Civil Rights also issued guidance to 60,000 retail pharmacies nationwide that under Section 1557, they may not discriminate on the basis of sex or disability when dispensing legal medications, including medications that can be used as part of a medication abortion.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.