Monday, July 20, 2020

AG HEALEY SUES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OVER NEW RULE ELIMINATING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS IN HEALTH CARE

AG HEALEY SUES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OVER NEW RULE ELIMINATING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS IN HEALTH CARE
Rule Eliminates Federal Protections Against Sex Discrimination for Vulnerable Populations, Including Transgender Individuals, Under the Affordable Care Act
  
          BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today co-led 23 attorneys general in suing the Trump Administration over a rule that seriously undermines critical anti-discrimination protections at the federal level for LGBTQ people, women and other individuals seeking reproductive care, and those with limited English proficiency in health care.

            The lawsuit, co-led by AG Healey, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, was filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, and the head of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights, Roger Severino, and alleges that the new rule allows providers and insurers to discriminate against certain vulnerable and protected populations by rolling back implementation of Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age by health programs or facilities that receive federal funds.

            “The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting some of our most vulnerable residents, yet this White House is moving forward with a rule that puts these communities at even further risk,” AG Healey said. “We need to focus on expanding access to care – not on rolling it back. We are suing to ensure our residents don’t face unnecessary or discriminatory barriers in accessing the health care services they need.”

The new rule dramatically revises regulations implementing Section 1557 and removes protections against discrimination based on sex and gender identity. Today’s complaint points out that, in excluding gender identity from federal protections, the new rule completely ignores the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status is sex discrimination.

Despite numerous failed legislative and legal battles to repeal and dismantle the ACA, the Trump Administration’s new rule would now eliminate many of the express protections contained in the Section 1557 regulations, unlawfully exclude many health insurers from Section 1557’s scope, and would invite health care providers and health insurers to deny care and insurance coverage to particularly vulnerable communities. The new rule would also impose unreasonable barriers and impede timely access to health care for Americans, in violation of Section 1554 of the ACA.

            In August 2019, AG Healey and AG Becerra co-led comments calling on HHS to withdraw the rule. In April, the attorneys general reiterated their call for the Administration to withdraw the rule, in an effort to avoid further straining the country’s already overburdened health care system in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is already exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that the ACA attempted to address. Immigrants and communities of color have been disproportionately impacted. Individuals with disabilities are at greater risk of infection and long-term illness or death, and the pandemic has created new barriers for them in accessing the care they need. The public health crisis has also exacerbated gender inequities in the healthcare system.

Today’s lawsuit alleges that HHS has unlawfully ignored the harms that the rule will impose on vulnerable populations. The coalition additionally contends that HHS failed to justify why it abandoned its prior policy, which, among other things, explicitly prohibited discrimination in health care and required health care entities to provide meaningful language assistance services to individuals with limited English proficiencyThe coalition specifically claims that the new rule is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and that it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.

AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division enforces federal and state civil rights laws, including anti-discrimination laws in Massachusetts that continue to protect residents from discrimination in health care and insurance. The Division encourages residents who feel their civil rights have been violated to call its hotline at (617) 963-2917 or file a complaint online.

Joining AG Healey, AG Becerra and AG James in filing today’s lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

This case is being handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorneys General Amanda Hainsworth of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division and Kimberly Parr of AG Healey’s Administrative Law Division, with assistance from Assistant Attorneys General Jon Burke and Ann Lynch, and Division Chief Abigail Taylor, all of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division.

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