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HHS proposes rollback of Obama protections for transgender patients

The Trump administration wants to roll back protections for transgender patients, saying the Obama-era push went too far afield of existing law and ran afoul of the federal courts.

The previous administration issued a regulation in 2016 that said laws barring discrimination on the basis of sex should include gender identity. Religious groups sued over those rules — an outgrowth of Obamacare — and federal courts in Texas and North Dakota enjoined them from taking effect.

The Trump administration says they’re taking a position that comports with those decisions, adheres to existing law and slashes billions of dollars in unnecessary paperwork.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” said Roger Severino, director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights. “The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives.”

The proposal will escalate a simmering fight between LGBT advocates and President Trump, who earlier this month issued a “conscience” protection rule to shield health workers who object to participating in certain procedures.

The National Center for Transgender Equality vowed to ramp up their fight, saying Friday’s rule will imperil Obamacare’s progress in getting transition-related care and other services.

“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,” Executive Director Mara Keisling said. “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.”

Mr. Severino downplayed the idea that doctors will refuse to treat transgender patients.

“I have not heard of such a hypothetical happening in real life,” he told reporters. 
He focused on the drier, legal aspects of the changes.

“The action we are taking today conforms with the court injunction as well as the position of the Department of Justice,” Mr. Severino said. “Most importantly it conforms with the text of the law itself.”

The administration says the move will reduce paperwork and save $ 3.6 billion in “unnecessary regulatory costs” over five years.

Mr. Severino said the money saved on English-only paperwork could be used to provide access for translators and interpreters for non-English speakers.

“As a child of Hispanic immigrants, I know how vitally important it is that people receive quality healthcare services regardless of the language they speak, and this proposal grants providers the needed flexibility for achieving that goal,” he said.

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