While we celebrate the SCOTUS ruling adding a layer of workplace protection to the LGBTQ+ communities, we must also acknowledge an HHS rule finalized a few days earlier which leaves some of those same individuals vulnerable to discrimination in healthcare, including mental health services.
To offer some context, in 2016, the Office of Civil Rights (HHS) issued a rule clarifying that gender identity be explicitly protected under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the nondiscrimination portion of the law, which prohibited providers from discriminating based on race, color, disability or sex. The new rule, issued Friday and set to take effect in August, redefines “sex” to expressly exclude transgender individuals from legal protection under this nondiscrimination law.
The implications of this are far-reaching, as it would allow providers of medical and mental health services to deny transgender individuals treatment not just for transition related services, even those deemed medically necessary, but any other treatment, as well, heavily restricting already sparse access to services, especially in areas of the country that are already underserved.
It should be noted that, while this rule may remove legal protections, the ACA ethical guidelines, upon which counselor licensure is based, still prohibit discrimination against any individual based on gender identity.
As it is imperative that we stay informed and know and engage our spheres of influence, more information on transgender rights can be found at the link below, and should you wish to advocate, you can contact your congressional representation.