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Changes To ACA Anti-Discrimination Rule Challenged by Healey, AGs

A new federal rule will allow health care providers and insurers to discriminate against certain vulnerable and protected populations, Attorney General Maura Healey and 22 of her counterparts allege in a lawsuit they filed against the Trump administration Monday.

The lawsuit said that a rule published in June "arbitrarily and unlawfully strips health care rights....from transgender people, women and other individuals seeking reproductive health care or with pregnancy-related conditions, [limited English proficiency] individuals, individuals with disabilities, and other individuals experiencing discrimination."

Healey said the suit aims to protect access to health care during a pandemic that has exacerbated existing disparities and has had disproportionate impacts on Black, brown and low-income communities.

"These disparities aren't accidents," she told reporters. "They're born because of actions like this. We will not let another political attack on our people go forward."

Healey joined attorneys general Letitia James of New York and Xavier Becerra of California on a conference call shortly after announcing the suit that they'd filed in federal court for the Southern District of New York with their counterparts from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

James called the rule "just the latest attempt by President Trump and his administration to unlawfully chip away at health care for Americans after failing to repeal" the Affordable Care Act.

On June 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it had finalized a rule under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the portion of the health care access law that prohibits health care programs or facilities that receive federal funds from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, disability, age or sex.

The department said the new rule returns "to the government's interpretation of sex discrimination according to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology," and that it will "relieve the American people of approximately $2.9 billion in unnecessary regulatory burdens over five years from eliminating the mandate for regulated entities to send patients and customers excessive 'notice and taglines' inserts in 15 or more foreign languages in almost every health care mailing, costs that get passed down to patients and consumers."

"Now more than ever, Americans do not want billions of dollars in ineffective regulatory burdens raising the costs of their healthcare," Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, said in a statement. "We are doing our part to reel in unnecessary costs that add economic burdens to patients, providers, and insurers alike."

The attorneys general argue that by excluding gender identity from federal protection the new rule ignores the Supreme Court's June decision in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, where the court found that discriminating based on sexual orientation or transgender status is a form of sex discrimination.

Healey's office said the rule would create "unreasonable barriers" to health care and "eliminate many of the express protections" in the Section 1557 regulations.

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