GLAD Commends Robust Health Care Nondiscrimination Protections in New Health and Human Services Rule 

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule that clarifies and reaffirms that Section 1557, the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act, protects LGBTQ+ people in access to health care services and health insurance. 

Section 1557 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in any health program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance, State-based health insurance Exchanges, and HHS health programs and activities” (from the HHS 1557 fact sheet).  The new rule both reinstates and expands on regulations issued under the Obama Administration clarifying that the prohibition against discrimination based on sex includes gender identity and sexual orientation, and brings the rule in line with the 2020 Supreme Court Bostock decision. 

The new rule also reinstates strong language access provisions requiring availability, training, and notification of translation services for 15 languages, and provides explicit protections from discrimination in telehealth and in the use of AI and machine learning in health care decision making tools. 

“Ensuring nondiscrimination in medical care is key to positive health outcomes. That’s important for people who need care, but it’s also essential for communities to thrive,” said Jennifer Levi, GLAD Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights. “At a time when politicians are banning essential transgender and reproductive health care, and as inequities in access to care persist for LGBTQ+ people, people of color, women, older adults, and people for whom English is not their first language, we commend the Department of Health and Human Services for affirming robust federal protections to ensure people can access the care they need and to support stronger, healthier communities.”

The rule applies to health care services including receiving medical care in doctors’ offices, hospitals or other settings, to all issuers of health insurance that receive Federal financial assistance and to all HHS programs including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the National Institutes of Health, and the Indian Health Service. For the first time the rule treats Medicare Part B as federal financial assistance.

The rule goes into effect in 60 days after publication in the federal register which is expected on May 6.