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Press Contact: 
Gillian Branstetter, Media Relations Manager
August 6, 2012

HHS Affirms that Healthcare Discrimination Law Protects Against Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity

Washington, DC - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that it views a 2010 law prohibiting sex discrimination in health care services as protecting from discrimination based on gender identity and gender stereotyping.

NCTE and ally organizations asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for clarification on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has affirmed our view that the law banning sex discrimination in federally-funded health services includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The HHS confirmation came in response to a letter to several LGBT organizations, including NCTE, seeking clarification of the law. In recent years, there has been a strong legal trend toward recognizing discrimination on these bases is covered under existing sex discrimination laws. The response noted that the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights will investigate such complaints and treat them as forms of discrimination based on sex, which is prohibited by law if an entity receives federal funds.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, "This anti-discrimination law, enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, creates an important new tool to combat anti-LGBT and especially anti-transgender discrimination in health care.” The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that one in five transgender people have been denied care by a medical provider. That survey and anecdotal evidence show that transgender people are too often turned away by doctors, mistreated by ambulance crews, and even thrown out of hospital emergency rooms.

"HHS affirms our position that these abuses are now clearly illegal," said Keisling. "But a law explicitly banning health care discrimination based on gender identity is the next step. Our community needs medical providers to know what their obligations are and passing a law is the strongest and clearest way to do that."

Because of this development, LGBT patients facing discrimination at hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices, or other medical providers that accept Medicare or Medicaid (or other forms of federal funding) can file complaints of discrimination with HHS and expect to have those complaints taken seriously. NCTE strongly urges transgender people who are facing harassment or discrimination to use our health care "know your rights" resource to advocate for respectful care.

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