Five years since its passage, 16 million Americans now receive health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and more enroll every day. The ACA has increased access to coverage, prohibited lifetime coverage caps, and ended denials based on pre-existing conditions. For self-employed, low income communities, and people living with chronic illnesses, like HIV/AIDS, these provisions have been life-changing. Despite this success, not every promise of the ACA has been realized.
The civil rights provision of the ACA, section 1557, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) has published informal guidance that this provision also provides protection for members of the LGBT community. The impact of this provision on protected communities cannot be overstated. Section 1557 has the power to serve as a critical tool towards ending insurance coverage gaps caused by discrimination, and to connect patients to culturally competent, truly accessible healthcare.
However, the Office of Civil Rights must publish a formal regulation implementing the provision and solidifying these critical protections for LGBT people in healthcare. LGBT people face discrimination in hospitals, physician, and healthcare provider offices across the country every day. Recent studies have shown that 56% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients and 70% of transgender patients have experienced discrimination at the hands of a healthcare provider.
LGBT people also face barriers to securing adequate health insurance coverage. In fact, prior to passage of the ACA, on in three lower income LGBT people were living without coverage. Although the ACA expands access, without clear, formal regulations enforcing Section 1557 protections, the full benefits of health insurance will remain out of reach for too many.
Read more about Section 1557 and how it impacts the LGBT community today in the Huffington Post