Washington, D.C. — On Monday, the Biden administration announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would apply the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County—that sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity—to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In practice, the change will clarify for patients and providers that the ACA’s nondiscrimination clause protects LGBTQ people seeking medical care and coverage.
The directive will have a meaningful impact for thousands of LGBTQ people who experience discrimination at the hands of their medical providers. Last year, a nationally representative survey of LGBTQ Americans conducted by the Center for American Progress and NORC at the University of Chicago found that 1 in 5 LGBTQ people reported experiencing some form of discriminatory treatment from a health care provider in the past year. This figure rises to nearly half when narrowed to just transgender people—and to more than 90 percent for Black transgender people.
In response to the administration’s announcement, Sharita Gruberg, vice president for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
Today’s announcement from HHS assures LGBTQ people that their rights will be upheld at the doctor’s office, vaccine sites, and everywhere else they seek health care and coverage. This announcement will save lives.
A nationally representative survey fielded by CAP and NORC at the University of Chicago found that more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ people who experienced discrimination in the year prior reported avoiding doctor’s offices out of fear of experiencing further discrimination by a health provider—and that nearly 1 in 5 transgender people who tried to seek medical care in the year prior had a provider outright refuse to see them simply because of their gender identity.
The administration’s announcement that it will enforce these protections is a critical step toward addressing vaccine hesitancy among LGBTQ people, a population that has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and seriously harmed by the previous administration’s attempts to permit discrimination against LGBTQ patients.
For more information on LGBTQ discrimination in health care or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcepa.