The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is putting its finishing touches to an anti-discrimination regulation under the Affordable Care Act. It will be the first federal law that protects transgender patients against sex discrimination, an issue that can inadvertently complicate a routine doctor's visit.
The rule also extends the anti-discrimination protection to people with disabilities and limited English proficiency. The deadline for it to be finalized is Friday.
Without anti-discrimination protections in place, many transgender patients run into problems with access to health care. While Caitlyn Jenner's public transition has pushed trans visibility into the spotlight, the community remains one of the most persecuted in the United States.
The move by the HHS signals a shift towards increased awareness about discrimination that transgender people face because of their gender identity.
From creating a safe, inclusionary health care space for trans patients to addressing certain insurance providers' justification for not covering gender transition, the rule will allow transgender people have access to health care as simply every other patient.
Though data collection on trans patients are limited, one National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 19 percent of respondents said they were refused care due to their gender status, 28 faced harassment — even violence — in medical settings, and 50 percent had to teach their providers about trans care.
The new rule will give transgender people legal protection in health care for the first time.
"When they go to the doctor and the doctors say, 'I don't feel comfortable,' they know they have the ability to say, 'I am a human being and you have to treat me. I have a legal right to get medical care,' " Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality told Marketplace.
Cover image via iStock / slkoceva