WASHINGTON – On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that enforcement of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX’s prohibitions on discrimination based on sex will include prohibitions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This announcement reverses the Trump administration’s multiple attempts to remove protections in health care for LGBTQ communities.

Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in covered health programs or activities. The HHS announcement applies the June 2020 US Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, holding that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination based on sex.

Juliet K. Choi, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific American Health Forum (APIAHF) and former chief of staff and senior advisor at the Office for Civil Rights at HHS, issued the following statement:

“Members of our LGBTQ communities avoided seeking needed health care in the past year due to fear of discrimination or mistreatment because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We applaud HHS and its decision to reaffirm civil rights protections for LGBTQ people and those facing discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Everyone deserves the right to health care and health resources without fear of harassment or prejudice.

“This is a critical step toward restoring Section1557 and ending discrimination in health care. While we celebrate today, much still needs to be done to ensure access and equity for all medically underserved communities. We will continue to look to the Administration to bolster and restore language access protections and ensure that the nearly 25 million limited English proficient persons in the US have equitable access to health care, especially when more and more care is being delivered through telemedicine.”

In 2019, APIAHF worked with partners from across the country to activate over 150,000 people who submitted comments to protect Section 1557. In addition to gathering the thousands of comments during the public comment period, APIAHF collected stories from Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander families to show the detrimental impact of the 2019 Trump administration’s redesigned rule.

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The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) influences policy, mobilizes communities and strengthens programs and organizations to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.