We're in the middle of a global pandemic, but that won't stop the Trump administration from chipping away at federal nondiscrimination protections for queer Americans.
Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are close to finalizing a rewrite of Obama-era health-care protections for LGBTQ patients, Politico reported Friday. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s Section 1557, queer and trans patients are explicitly granted protection from "sex discrimination" in health-care settings. Head HHS officials plan to scrap that language, a move advocates fear will enable hospitals and health-care providers to discriminate against patients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It's not the first time Trump's HHS has ditched pro-LGBTQ policies, nor is it the first time officials have singled out Section 1557. The agency first proposed nixing the ACA's LGBTQ-inclusive language this past August, resulting in widespread criticism from queer and trans advocacy groups.
Last spring, the Trump administration also implemented a new rule allowing religious health-care providers to refuse service to patients under the guise of "conscience protections". And in October 2019, HHS officials announced they would no longer enforce LGBTQ protections at federally funded health centers.
Studies have repeatedly shown that transgender Americans in particular avoid seeking medical treatment due to fear of discrimination.
In a media statement, HRC president Alphonso David called out HHS officials' poor timing. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has already wreaked havoc on marginalized groups like LGBTQ Americans, who are uniquely vulnerable to devastating financial and physical effects of public health crises.
"News flash, Mr. President: We get sick, we need health care, and we should be protected under law," David said. "Time after time, the Trump-Pence administration has methodically worked to undermine the rights and welfare of LGBTQ people by rolling back existing protections. Amid a global pandemic—which is already disproportionately affecting LGBTQ people—the Trump administration’s efforts to remove existing non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community is unacceptable, blatantly offensive, and cruel."