May 24, 2019
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made public its proposed rule change that invites insurance companies and medical providers to deny patients care because of who they are.
The rule was released just before the Memorial Day holiday.
This is not a surprise. Earlier this month, a coalition of national LGBTQ organizations – Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Out Leadership, The Human Rights Campaign, and The National Center for Transgender Equality – published an analysis regarding HHS’s clearly telegraphed intention to revise regulations to its non-discrimination policies. Such revisions present significant challenges to the transgender community. Click here to view this detailed overview.
The new proposed rule threatens to undermine access to life-saving care for transgender people. Since 2012, section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act – which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities – has been consistently interpreted to include discrimination on the basis of sex stereotyping and gender identity.
The proposed changes expressly state that sex discrimination does not include gender identity or sex stereotyping/sexual orientation discrimination. It also contains religious and/or conscience exemptions.
What it Means for Your Employees:
- Even before changes are fully enacted, news like this can weigh heavily on your LGBTQ employees. Employees and/ or their family members may feel particularly at risk of harassment and discrimination.
- The prospect of these rollbacks may present imminent worry and stress. Employees may be reasonably distracted by thoughts such as, “What does this mean for my child’s healthcare? What if I need to go to the emergency room?”
- LGBTQ employees already face significant barriers to healthcare. As reported in the analysis, one-third of transgender individuals reported a negative healthcare experience, and pervasive discrimination prevents many transgender and gender nonconforming patients from seeking care.
What You Can Do:
- If you are personally impacted by the prospect of these rollbacks, you should also be able to find support in HR, Benefits, your Employee Resource Group or other internal offices devoted to employee well-being.
- If you are an ally, now is a good time to proactively lend support. A visible gesture of solidarity such as the trans equality flag or other emblem can go a long way.
- If you manage staff – whether or not you think some are trans-identified – proactively communicating your own and your company’s values of trans inclusion can be critical in moments like this.
What it Means for Your Company:
- The voice of business remains vital in standing up for access to healthcare for transgender people. Your impact cannot be overstated. With two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies already providing trans-inclusive healthcare coverage, major businesses like yours know that ensuring that trans employees can be healthy and thrive is both the right thing to do and part of ensuring a vibrant workforce. (This is also true for other population groups).
- There will be opportunities to provide corporate comments. Out & Equal will be here in coalition with others to help you hone your message. If you are an ally, now is a good time to proactively lend support. A visible gesture of solidarity such as the trans equality flag or other emblem can go a long way.
- As news rolls out, ensure your transgender employees feel supported in your firm’s internal and external communications, recognizing the weight this can place on their mental and physical well-being. Proactive communication is the best communication for cultivating support and belonging.