Civil rights laws have barred discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, and age. Now, HHS is proposing a new rule that will enhance protections for gender equality, as well as for people with disabilities and those with limited English. It is an “important step,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, “to strengthen protections for people who have often been subject to discrimination in our health care system.”
Among other things, the proposal mandates that women must be treated equally with men in the health care they receive. Patients also cannot be denied health care or coverage based on their sex, including gender identity; their treatment must be consistent with their gender identity, including access to facilities. Sex-specific health care cannot be denied or limited because the patient identifies as belonging to another gender. For example, a provider may not deny a patient treatment for ovarian cancer, based on the patient’s identification as transgender, where the treatment is medically indicated.
The proposed rule will apply to health insurance marketplaces, any health program administered by HHS, and any health program or activity that receives funding from HHS, such as hospitals that accept Medicare patients or doctors who treat Medicaid patients.