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NYS AG leads lawsuit against Trump Administration's new health care rule

Richard Drew
Associated Press
New York Attorney General Letiticia James is leading a lawsuit against the Trump Administration.

Three attorneys general, including those from New York and Massachusetts, held a press call Monday, to announce their lawsuit against the Trump Administration for rolling back protections under the Affordable Care Act.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading a coalition of 23 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit aimed at stopping a new Trump Administration rule she says makes it easier for health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate. James, a Democrat, says this is the latest in a long line of lawsuits New York has filed against the administration for its efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

“The Trump Administration is trying to discriminate against Americans, specifically, the LGBTQ+ community, those with limited English proficiency and women, amongst so many others,” James says. “That’s why today we are taking legal action once again.”

The legal action targets a rule the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, finalized in June, which, according to James, rolls back protections.

“This president is unlawfully giving health care providers and insurers license to deny care to LGBTQ+ individuals, those who do not speak English and women. It is never acceptable to deny health care to Americans who need it, but it is especially egregious to do so in the middle of a pandemic,” says James. “We have no doubt that this rule was simply motivated by the Trump Administration’s animus towards the transgender community.”

She contends that HHS has failed to justify why it abandoned its prior policy. According to HHS, the rule maintains enforcement of federal civil rights laws on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex, and restores the rule of law by revising certain provisions that go beyond the plain meaning of the law as enacted by Congress.

The Department also writes that the final rule will relieve $2.9 billion in unnecessary regulatory burdens over five years by eliminating the mandate for regulated entities to send patients and customers inserts in 15 or more foreign languages in most health-care mailings. HHS says these costs are passed down to patients and consumers. Maura Healey is Massachusetts attorney general.

“So instead of expanding access to care, this White House is, once again, putting up barriers and exacerbating the fear and anxiety that already exists for these communities,” Healey says.

The Democrat describes the new HHS rule as particularly galling given a recent Supreme Court ruling which held that discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by federal civil rights law.

“We’re asking today to put a stop to this discriminatory rule, to put an end to these indefensible attacks in our communities, and to protect the health care of millions of Americans, particularly during a global pandemic, a pandemic that has already exacerbated disparities in health care and disproportionately impacted our Black, brown, immigrant and low-income communities,” says Healey.

Attorneys general in Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont are some of the others who have joined the suit. James describes how the new rule would impact New Yorkers.

“Approximately 5% of the population in New York state identifies as LGBTQ+,” says James. “And many members of this community still face widespread discrimination in health-care settings.”

“Additionally, approximately 2.4 million New York residents have limited English proficiency, and this rule will make it harder for these residents to obtain language-assistance services   needed to receive health care and understand their rights,” James says. “And, finally, approximately 29% of the 400,000 pregnancies in New York each year end in abortion, and 68% of women of reproductive age in New York use contraception, meaning that these rollback will have significant impact on millions of women across New York.”

Before the rule was finalized, James and others had called on the Trump Administration to withdraw the rule. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined James and Healey on the call.

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