President Obama continues to fight for gender equality by introducing regulations that explicitly prohibit medical professionals from discriminating against people on the basis of their gender identity. The proposed rule will ensure that transgender people have equal access to medical care, and bans health insurance providers from excluding transgender patients from coverage.
Although the Affordable Care Act already prohibits sexual discrimination, it did not explicitly make provisions for transgender patients. Reports show that transgender people still suffer from unequal access to healthcare. For instance, some insurance providers explicitly state that transgender people are not eligible for medical care, and until 2014, Medicare excluded what it called “Transsexual Surgery” entirely.
The Obama administration’s new rule bans any such policies, and makes clear the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to providing necessary healthcare to all citizens. “This proposed rule is an important step to strengthen protections for people who have often been subject to discrimination in our health care system,” says Sylvia M. Burwell of Health and Human Services. “This is another example of this Administration’s commitment to giving every American access to the health care they deserve.”
According to GLAAD, 19% of transgender people lack any form of health insurance at all. And even those who have health insurance are often denied coverage for necessary treatments. In 2013, Shane Snowdon of the Human Rights Campaign said, “The reality for most transgender people, even if they’re insured is that they do not have coverage.” This includes coverage for gender-specific care, such as hormone treatments, as well as services readily available to others. GLAAD states that “Most procedures that transgender people can’t get covered are available to non-transgender people.”
In addition, a recent survey shows that over 40% of female-to-male transgender patients experienced harassment, assault, or discrimination in seeking medical care. The new regulations would also ensure the legal right for transgender people to make civil rights claims against such discrimination.
The Obama administration’s proposal is the latest example of the president’s fight for gender equality and advocacy for transgender Americans. In addition to supporting the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, Obama is the first U.S. president to choose a transgender political appointee and to explicitly mention transgender people in a speech. According to Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality, “He has been the best president for transgender rights, and nobody else is in second place.”
Despite the fact that roughly 3 out of 4 newly insured Republicans report that they are happy with their coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Republican party continues to wage war against the program and, in doing so, against the transgender community as well. Without the protections offered by Obamacare, accessing medical attention would be even harder for transgender people.
Healthcare should be a basic right of all citizens, and with these new regulations, the Obama administration takes us one step closer to making that a reality, and ensuring that all Americans enjoy the same rights, regardless of gender identity.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.