The Trump administration seems to be ready to roll back health care protections for transgender people. This is causing advocates to gear up for a fight.
A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services is expected in the coming days, and it would make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients, as well as women who have had abortions.
This move comes on the heels of the military transgender ban, and there are fears the administration could go even further and use the proposal as an opportunity to narrow the definition of gender.
The White House administration hinted in a recent court filing that new health regulations could be published as soon as next week. The new rule is expected to weaken or eliminate an anti-discrimination provision enshrined in ObamaCare.
The past provision says patients cannot be turned away because they are transgender, nor can they be denied coverage if they need a service that’s related to their transgender status.
Religious providers say they expect the administration’s rule to reinforce their right not to provide treatment that is against their beliefs.
Advocates say they are concerned that the proposal could jeopardize the gains made in making sure transgender individuals receive equal access to care.
The proposal is “likely to send an even stronger signal that the administration endorses discrimination in health care against transgender people,” said Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality.
The rule “won’t mean that overnight transgender people can’t get health care, but it will be a steady drip of allowing more discrimination,” Tobin said.
Chase Strangio, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said access to health care can be a life or death circumstance, and the rule could have “catastrophic effects” if it is finalized.
“To have the government take a stand in favor of discrimination is deeply upsetting, ” Strangio said.
“If the final rule looks like the proposal we are anticipating, we and our partners will file suit as soon as possible,” Strangio said. “We can expect many legal challenges to any final rule.”
Tobin, of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the uncertainty is having a harmful effect.
“At a time when the administration is trying to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, at a time when the transgender ban in military is taking effect, transgender people are scared for their ability to get the health care they need, and that their providers know they need,” Tobin said.