By Maya Rhodan with TIME
The Obama administration has finalized a new rule that bans discrimination against transgender people and all discrimination on the basis of sex within health programs that receive federal funding.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday the finalization of the Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities rule, a part of the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557. The rule forbids health care providers who take funding from the HHS from denying health care based on gender identity or denying patients treatment for sex-specific ailments like ovarian or prostate cancer simply because an individual identifies as a different sex.
“A central goal of the Affordable Care Act is to help all Americans access quality, affordable health care. Today’s announcement is a key step toward realizing equity within our health care system and reaffirms this Administration’s commitment to giving every American access to the health care they deserve,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia M. Burwell in a statement.
A 2010 national survey found that 19% of trans men and women were refused services because of their gender identity, 28% said they had been harassed in medical settings, and half said they had to teach their health care provider about caring for transgender people. Though the rule will not eliminate all discrimination, it will make it easier for those who feel they have been wronged to file complaints and take legal action.
The new rule, which also clarifies protections for people with disabilities and non English speakers, comes as Obama administration has taken several steps to protect transgender individuals this week. On Friday, the administration wrote a guidance letter to U.S. public schools directing them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Friday called the letter “advice” to school administrators. “What the Department of Education has issued today is specific, tangible, real world advice and suggestions to school administrators across the country,” Earnest said.