The Affordable Care Act may protect American citizens against discrimination based on gender identity, but it turns out Obamacare doesn't offer the same protections for citizens based on their sexual orientation. The LGBT community and advocates were expecting lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals to be protected under civil-rights provision Section 1557 of Obamacare, which "prohibits discrimination on the ground of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability."
However, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials says that probably won't happen, the Huffington Post reported Tuesday. Sort of shocking, isn't it?
Cases of LGBT discrimination under Obamacare have been documented. A local community health center that handles LGBT care and HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. reported significant anti-LGBT health care discrimination to the HHS' Office of Civil Rights in September 2013, which the OCR used to fight for an LGBT discrimination provision in Obamacare.
But Fernando Morales, an attorney with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights, said the LGBT community would probably not be protected against discrimination last week during the Salud LGBTT conference in Puerto Rico.
Corey Prachniak, an LGBT rights advocate, HIV policy, and healthcare attorney, reported the news on his blog during the conference:
Mr. Morales said today that OCR will not say that discriminating against someone because of their same-sex attraction is covered by the law. “Unfortunately, no, not at this time,” he said. “That is not covered under 1557.” I repeated Mr. Morales’s position back to him to make sure I had understood it correctly, and he affirmed that I was correct. This seems to be breaking news, and heartbreaking news, for the LGBT community. If there is a silver lining, Mr. Morales said that gender identity-related discrimination will be included in the regulations. However, even there, how good of news this remains to be seen. Some in the department “want to go farther than others,” Mr. Morales said.
HHS' Office of Civil Rights Spokeswoman Rachel Seeger says a ruling on Section 1557 has not been made yet, so the HHS can't comment on it. "However, the law was effective upon enactment and OCR has been accepting and investigating complaints under this authority," Seeger told the Huffington Post.
This news seems surprising, especially given the amount of states that have legalized same-sex marriage, and the fact that President Obama now supports same-sex marriage. Wouldn't you imagine the LGBT community would be protected against health care discrimination under Obamacare? Well, here's hoping...