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Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS

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Court:
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Health Care Fairness, Transgender Rights

Lambda Legal and Steptoe & Johnson LLP filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published rule that purports to carve out LGBTQ people and other vulnerable populations from the protections of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, among other bases.

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The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Whitman-Walker Health, the TransLatin@ Coalition and its members (including leaders of affiliated organizations like Arianna’s Center in Florida), Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, AGLP: The Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists, and four individual doctors.

In 2016, the Obama administration finalized a rule implementing the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act — also known as Section 1557 — that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status, or sex stereotypes as forms of sex discrimination. In May 2019, however, the Trump administration announced a proposed rule change designed to roll back these protections, and notwithstanding that multiple federal courts — including most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court — have interpreted sex discrimination protections to protect LGBTQ people.

The proposed rule would carve-out LGBTQ people from the Affordable Care Act’s nondiscrimination protections, and invite health care workers, doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies that receive federal funding to refuse to provide or cover health care services critical to the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people, such as gender-affirming and reproductive care. The proposed rule would also limit the remedies available to people who face health disparities, limit the access to health care for people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and dramatically reduce the number of health care entities and insurance subject to the rule.

On Friday, June 19, 2020, HHS published the health care discrimination rule which, when published, was scheduled to go into effect August 18, 2020.