Months before the Trump administration announced plans to gut transgender health care protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Law Center had purchased a domain name and prepared a website.
ProtectTransHealth.org sat published but not promoted, waiting for the worst.
This Wednesday, that preparation paid off. To date, a staggering 132,458 people have submitted comments denouncing the rollback of transgender health care protections, according to NCTE. The comments, collected through ProtectTransHealth.org and a massive advocacy campaign, comprise a groundswell of opposition to the rollback.
Because of you, we did it!
A record-breaking 132,400 people submitted comments to the Trump administration about their proposal to encourage discrimination against trans people.
— National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) August 14, 2019
On Monday, 125 members of Congress wrote to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar condemning the proposal.
“This proposed rule will have devastating impacts on access to health care for millions across this country, exacerbating already troubling health disparities,” they contend.
“The Trump administration can never claim ignorance about the very real harm posed by this rule,” says NCTE’s Executive Director Mara Keisling in a statement. “HHS must not ignore the unified voice of a large community demanding they do the right thing and discard this ill-conceived proposal.”
Watching #PoseFX and stanning this beach trip?
— Advocates for Youth (@AdvocatesTweets) August 14, 2019
LGBTQ advocates have claimed that it is the most-commented on regulation proposed by HHS this year. That number is impossible to independently verify because HHS has not yet published the comments. However, Regulation.gov shows that the measure has garnered 152,077 responses. If LGBTQ advocates are correct, that means 87% of those who weighed in on the proposal support continuing to guarantee transgender health care protections under the ACA.
The comments in question specifically refer to an HHS proposal to strike down the ACA’s 1557 guidelines that state “sex discrimination” includes “gender identity.” That language forms the basis for nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in the ACA. According to NCTE, if HHS succeeds in implementing this proposed regulation, the move could limit access to health care for 2 million Americans who could face discrimination from doctors and insurance companies.
The rollback is not guaranteed, however. In May, HHS, implemented new “conscience protections” which give health care workers a pass to refuse to transgender patients and refuse to perform abortions after a similar 60-day public comment period. The new rule has been met with a barrage of lawsuits from advocacy groups and two dozen cities and states.
An estimated 200,000 people submitted comments opposing the “conscience protections” rule, according to the National Women’s Law Center. (Those comments only officially totaled 72,417 on Regulation.gov because advocacy groups submitted files with multiple comments that were counted as single documents.)
Jocelyn Samuels, former director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS during the Obama era, pointed out during the conscience protections debate that HHS would be required to take those comments into account before issuing a rule.
“Those comments all count as part of the public record,” Samuels told Into last April. “So even if they are all summary and effectively follow boilerplate language, they are part of the public record that the agency is obligated to consider. And the level of concern that provoked 200,000 comments presumably in opposition to all or parts of the rule would be something that OCR would be expected to take into account.”
HHS Office for Civil Rights Director Roger Severino did not respond to NewNowNext’s questions on how it would be handling the comments received in response to this latest proposal.
“As with previous rulemaking, comments received both electronically and on paper according to instructions in the rule will be processed and posted online as expeditiously as possible,” Severino says.
In a May press release, the agency claimed the proposed rollback will “eliminate $3.2 billion in unneeded paperwork burdens.”