Not a single week goes by that Donald Trump doesn’t attack the queer community in some way. Currently, there’s been an uproar over his assault on transgender soldiers, forcing the armed forces to fire thousands of qualified employees. But at the same time, a less-noticed project could result in medical services being denied to millions of Americans.
Undoing Obama-Era Protections
At issue is a rule known as Section 1557. That part of the Obamacare act required hospitals and insurers to treat all people the same without regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, Obama made it illegal to deny someone health care or coverage because they’re gay.
But now the Department of Health and Human services has deleted information about Section 1557 from its website. Just as with its online deletions of climate change science, the administration is clearly preparing to eliminate policies that could save lives.
Using Trans People as a Trojan Horse
Republicans have insisted that this change in policy is related to trans citizens and gender transition. They say they don’t want to pay for transition-related care, despite such therapy being deemed “medically necessary” by major medical organizations. According to Republicans waging war on equal access to medicine, the objections of religious doctors are more important than the health of queer Americans.
But the rule Republicans are attacking doesn’t just apply to trans people. It covers all queer people — and even people simply suspected of being queer. And it doesn’t just apply to transition-related care. Deleting this rule could be used as justification to deny any kind of treatment. You might find yourself unable to get a flu shot, or skin cancer screening, or a broken leg x-rayed.
Extreme Danger in Emergencies
Where this rule change could be the most dire is in emergency situations. It’s rare but not unheard of a medical providers refusing to provide care when they find out a patient’s sexuality. People have died when EMTs refused to treat them at the scene of emergencies. Other people have had surgery cancelled or found themselves turned away from their child’s pediatrician.
This isn’t a hypothetical situation that might happen — it’s something that already happens. Under Obamacare’s Section 1557, victims had an opportunity for redress. But under the Trump administration, they could soon lose that avenue.
That means queer people could find themselves unable to obtain care in an emergency. It’s bad enough to be turned away from a hospital for a checkup. But in an emergency, there might not be time to seek out an alternative.
Democrats Are Fighting to Protect LGBTQ People
Fortunately, Democrats have written to the Department of Health and Human Services to demand an explanation. Washington Senator Patty Murray has been particularly aggressive in standing up for queer health.
But whether their demands for an explanation will be acknowledged remains to be seen. The Trump administration seems determined to undermine basic protections for LGBTQ Americans, and the protests of decent people have so far fallen on deaf ears.
For now, it’s looking increasingly likely that queer citizens will soon have no idea if they’ll be seen the next time they go to the hospital.