Biden HHS to require Insurers To Cover Abortions and Gender Transitions

"P20210325AS-0445" (United States Government Work) by The White House

On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would reverse Trump-era policies relating to abortion and transgender health rights. 

The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday that it would take steps towards protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in health care. 

An official from the HHS Office for Civil Rights stated that they would interpret and enforce Section 1557 and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex to incorporate discrimination based on gender identity and discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Section 1557 prohibits discrimination based on color, race, national origin, sex, age, or disability in covered health programs or activities.

This move will ensure that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people. 

On Monday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said, “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences.” Becerra added, “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

The Trump administration previously defined “sex” to mean gender assigned at birth. This term excludes transgender people from the umbrella of what the law protects. 

The Trump-era policy prevents insurers and hospitals from providing services such as gender-transition procedures and abortion. However, the Biden administration is moving to require hospitals and insurers to cover abortion and gender-transition procedures if the facility provides that kind of treatment. 

HHS warned that “discrimination in health care impacts health outcomes,” citing research which shows “one-quarter of LGBTQ people who faced discrimination postponed or avoided receiving needed medical care for fear of further discrimination.”

Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine said, “The mission of our Department is to enhance the health and well-being of all Americans, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. All people need access to healthcare services to fix a broken bone, protect their heart health, and screen for cancer risk.” Levine added, “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”

Acting OCR director Robinsue Frohboese said, “OCR will follow Supreme Court precedent and federal law, and ensure that the law’s protections extend to those individuals who are discriminated against based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Becerra added that the new Biden administration policy would put HHS in accordance with a landmark case the Supreme Court had decided last year in a workplace discrimination case. In the decision, the Supreme Court established that the federal law against sex discrimination on the job also protects transgender and gay people. 

The action that was presented on Monday also means that the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights will again conduct an investigation relating to complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.