NHeLP Welcomes Regulation Expanding Discrimination Bans in ACA Health Coverage

NHeLP Welcomes Regulation Expanding Discrimination Bans in ACA Health Coverage

WASHINGTON—The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) released the following statement welcoming the proposed regulation issued today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The proposed regulation implements the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) ban on discrimination in health care services and expands it to include sex stereotyping and gender identification.

“We are exceedingly pleased that this regulation specifically includes protections against discrimination in health care, including new protections on the basis of sex,” said Elizabeth G. Taylor, NHeLP executive director. “This marks a significant step toward full and effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s groundbreaking nondiscrimination protections, intended to provide equal health care to all people.”

The proposed regulation implements the ACA’s Section 1557, which applies existing federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability to health care plans and programs that receive federal funds. The proposed regulation:

  • Confirms that gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, and includes requirements for insurers to cover medically appropriate services for transgender individuals seeking care;
  • Reinforces broad protections for persons with limited English proficiency and persons with disabilities, particularly noting that language services and auxiliary aids must be provided along with modern information technology; and
  • Addresses discriminatory practices by health insurers in benefit designs, marketing, and cost sharing—issues raised by NHeLP in its pending HIV discrimination complaint with The AIDS Institute.

The proposed regulation also recognizes that private individuals can go to court when they are being discriminated against in health care settings. “These private enforcement provisions are critical to ensuring people can get help when and if the federal agency is not taking action,” said Mara Youdelman, NHeLP DC managing attorney.

The proposed regulation will be published September 8 and stay open for comments until November 6. NHeLP will be submitting a comprehensive set of comments and working to ensure discrimination based on sexual orientation is included in the final regulation alongside gender identity and sex stereotyping. We also will urge the Administration to move promptly after the end of the comment period to finalize the regulations so as to ensure effective implementation of this crucial new civil rights protection.

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