On June 12th, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive decision to reverse Obama-era transgender protections in the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also commonly known as “Obamacare”, was enacted in March of 2010 under President Barack Obama’s administration. It is a comprehensive health care reform law, meaning it encompasses a vast array of services necessary to maintain both physical and mental health. The main goal of the ACA was to provide these various health services to millions of uninsured U.S. citizens under affordable health insurance. It did so with a set of regulations, which included expanding Medicaid eligibility and ensuring that insurance companies would not be able to deny someone coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
The act has a multitude of sections within it, one being Section 1557, which is the Health Care Rights Law. This law strictly prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability. In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clarified by saying that Section 1557 included anti-transgender discrimination, thereby making it clear that the trans community was protected within this section.
Fast forward to present day, the HHS under President Trump’s administration has decided to revoke their previous clarification and now say that transgender people are no longer included within Section 1557. The new regulation will interpret sex determination, “according to the plain meaning of the word ‘sex’ as male or female and as determined by biology.” However, this does not mean discrimination against the trans community in health care is now legal. Transgender people can still file lawsuits against anti-trans discrimination, but the HHS and federal government will not be investigating complaints.
If there were no discrepancies, the HHS’s ACA revision would be finalized in the federal register 60 days after it was announced. However, the 60 days can also be put on hold if the rule is challenged in court via a lawsuit, through which the judge deems it necessary to pause the countdown. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with a multitude of LGBTQ+ nonprofits, stated it will be filing a lawsuit to have the revision ultimately revoked. This lack of support could potentially keep the policy from going into effect for years.
Moreover, the recent ruling of the Supreme Court in Bostock vs. Clayton County directly undermined the HHS’s revision, as this court case ruled in favor of trans protections in the workplace. This will no doubt cause problems for the HHS. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch of the Supreme Court stated, “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
It comes as no surprise that members of the LGBTQ+ community feel hurt, offended, and alienated due to this decision of the Trump administration. To fully understand how this new policy has impacted this community, the following are quotes from members of Queens College’s Gender Love and Sexuality Association (GLASA).
Akashdeep Singh, Vice President of GLASA at Queens College (Gender Love and Sexuality Alliance), said, “Personally, all I can simply say is that for a while, it’s felt like the walls around me have slowly began tumbling down. I remember waking up and seeing ACA trending on Twitter. I called my friends just to rant about how President Trump has chosen to prioritize finances over human rights. The Trump administration has definitely dragged us many steps back.”
Mariam Aslam, President of GLASA agreed with Singh, adding, “As president of GLASA, it is astonishing to see how basic human rights are denied just because people want to express who they are. I myself have been homeless and have been on my own journey, as I know how it feels to not have medical insurance or no coverage. It’s awful having our mental health or physical being treated as if it were a luxury. Especially for expenses such as top surgery, bottom surgery or any other medical expenses to make people feel their identity in some way is already rejected by the medical industry. It is hard seeing how much as a society we have digressed, but I hope as the future progresses, so do the rights of those who identify as part of the LGBT+ community and other minorities..”