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Tuesday, October 04, 2022

AG HEALEY LEADS COALITION IN SUPPORT OF FEDERAL PROPOSAL TO RESTORE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS IN HEALTHCARE

 AG HEALEY LEADS COALITION IN SUPPORT OF FEDERAL PROPOSAL TO RESTORE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS IN HEALTHCARE 

New Proposed Rule Will Reinstate Important Protections for Vulnerable Patients, Including Transgender People, Under the Affordable Care Act  

 

BOSTON – Today, Attorney General Maura Healey co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general, in issuing a letter supporting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) proposed rule to restore and strengthen anti-discrimination protections for vulnerable patients under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

 

The new proposed rule would rescind a Trump Administration regulation that rolled back essential anti-discrimination protections in the ACA for people who are transgender, have limited English proficiency, or are seeking reproductive care. The new rule restores these protections and adds new provisions to protect telehealth patients and prevent algorithmic bias, and applies these protections broadly, including to health insurers. 

 

In the comment letter, co-led by AG Healey, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the coalition argues that the new rule is critical to safeguarding the health and well-being of vulnerable populations including communities of color, pregnant people, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with limited English proficiency, and those with disabilities. Additionally, it would help to create a more equitable, accessible, and affordable healthcare system for states across the country. 

 

“It is essential that our federal government does everything in its power to expand equal access to health care,” said AG Healey. “We applaud HHS for taking this important step toward ensuring that vulnerable patients do not face needless and discriminatory barriers in getting the life-saving care they need.” 

 

When Congress enacted the ACA in 2010, it contained a landmark civil rights provision, Section 1557, which prohibits discrimination in federal health care programs. Section 1557 specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. The Obama Administration implemented this provision through regulations that provided particular, express, protections in a number of key areas, including for transgender individuals, pregnant people, and those with limited English proficiency.

 

However, in 2020, the Trump Administration rescinded this rule and replaced it with a new rule that rolled back those protections. The Trump Administration implemented this new rule despite clear warnings from AG Healey and a coalition of attorneys general that doing so would seriously undermine critical antidiscrimination protections when they were most needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the 2020 rule, AG Healey co-led a lawsuit challenging this rollback to try to prevent its harmful impact on marginalized and vulnerable communities throughout the country. 

 

The coalition applauds the rule for restoring and broadening the anti-discrimination protections under the ACA, including: 

 

  • Adding express prohibitions against discrimination based on sex and gender identity; 
  • Restoring detailed language access requirements to ensure people of all national origins, including those with limited English proficiency, have meaningful access to health programs and activities; 
  • Reinstating protections against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy-related medical conditions, including past pregnancy and the termination of pregnancy; and 
  • Adding provisions relating to the use of algorithms in clinical decision-making, and telehealth. 

 

The states strongly support these provisions because they will improve health outcomes for our most vulnerable residents, reduce healthcare costs that would otherwise be borne by the states’ public health systems, and meaningfully address disparities and inequities in the provision of healthcare. 

 

In filing the comment letter, AG Healey, AG James, and AG Bonta, are joined by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

 

This letter is being handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General and Managing Attorney Amanda Hainsworth, of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Chief Sandra Wolitzky, of AG Healey’s Health Care Division.  

 

A copy of the comment letter is available here

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