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Under the Trump Administration, U.S. health leaders are proposing to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s ban against discrimination in healthcare.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revision to ACA would erase references to protections against discrimination by health care programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability.
The revision, according to Health Affairs, would remove:
- Certain definitions (such as terms like “on the basis of sex”);
- Nondiscrimination protections based on sex, gender identity, and association;
- Language-access requirements (such as translated taglines on notices and communications to consumers), affecting people with limited English proficiency
- Requirements for a compliance coordinator and written grievance process to handle complaints about alleged violations; and
- Enforcement-related provisions (such as protections against intimidation).
“Predicated on little more than prejudice, this proposal will abandon 2 million Americans who already face significant barriers to accessing adequate and life-saving health care,” said Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality in a statement.
HHS is seeking public comments on its proposal. You can make a public comment form now through Aug. 13, 2019!
- Copy the Salud America! model comment (s) below (and add a personal story)
Latinos and other vulnerable groups face inequities and disparities when it comes to healthcare access, according to a Salud America! Research Review. Removing notice requirements that tell people their rights and explain how people with limited English proficiency can get important documents translated into their languages can be seriously damaging to the Latino population and other minority populations.
Nearly 26 million people in the U.S. have limited English proficiency. These people run a high risk of health health-related complications, including surgical infections and falls, due to misunderstanding a doctor’s orders, making mistakes preparing for procedures, or improperly using medications.
Eliminating a private right of action that allows people who have been discriminated against by a health care program or facility to go to court for relief could be extremely harmful to the LGBTQ community. Take Kyler Prescott for example. He was a transgender teen who was frequently misgendered by staff who refused to acknowledge his gender identity while he was hospitalized for depression, thus he committed suicide. A federal judge in California found the hospital had discriminated against him.
Allowing health care entities that accept federal funding to discriminate against patients who have had a pregnancy termination will have a threatening effect on access to care. Permitting religious exemptions as the rule suggests will victimize women seeking required reproductive health care services. This is especially damaging for Latinas, who already suffer from numerous pregnancy inequalities including pre-term births, maternal obesity, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, lack of breastfeeding, and lack of paid maternity leave, according to a Salud America! report.
- Go to regulations.gov and paste this comment in the “Comment” box.
- Add your info. Click “Continue.”
- Check the box at the bottom. Click “Submit Comment.”
Reason for Revision
The ACA revision aims to “better comply with the mandates of Congress, address legal concerns, relieve billions of dollars in undue regulatory burdens, further substantive compliance, [and] reduce confusion.”
It also aims to “clarify regulations “prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability,” according to the Federal Registrar.
“The American people are tired of unnecessary regulations getting in the way of access to affordable healthcare, and today’s proposal would remove $3.6 billion in regulatory burdens that are ultimately being passed down to patients,” said Roger Severino of the HHS in a statement.
Why This Matters for Latinos, Others
However, health leaders say the changes could threaten health coverage for certain groups, including Latinos.
Latinos face health inequities and disparities due to lack of healthcare access, according to a Salud America! Research Review. This is due to many factors including socioeconomic status and language barriers, which this revision is targeting.
“The administration should be in the business of expanding access to health care and health coverage,” said Jocelyn Samuels, an Obama administration official who oversaw the implementation of the ACA, according to KHN.
“And my fear is that this rule does just the opposite.”
The LGBTQ community faces big health obstacles and high rates of illness. This makes access to equitable treatment in health care all the more imperative, research shows.
“This is not about free health care or special treatment. It’s about the right of every American to be treated with dignity when they walk into an emergency room, meet a new doctor, or find the right insurance plan,” Keisling said in her statement. “If permitted, this rule will promote ignorance and hate that no American should have to face while seeking care, and we are ready to fight it with everything we’ve got.”
Many health and social justice groups and advocates are expected to submit comments.
Submit your comment by Aug. 13, 2019!