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Lawsuit filed in MA alleges federal attempt to strip LGBTQ+ protections

This article was written by: Drew Karedes and originally published by Boston 25 News on July 9, 2020

BOSTON — A coalition of health care providers and activists in Massachusetts are standing up to a recent move by the Trump administration they say is discriminatory.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on Thursday night calls out a new rule that would strip protections of LGBTQIA people.

Ellen LaPointe, Chief Executive Officer of Fenway Health, said she believes it’s in response to a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month.

The ruling extended workplace protections to millions of people across the country.

Fenway Health and six other plaintiffs in the lawsuit accuse the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of stripping out provisions from the Affordable Care Act which protect LGBTQIA people in relation to health care.

“The rule removes protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sex stereotyping, harming LGBTQ+,” the suit states. “The rule would encourage the kind of “implicit and explicit biases” that “negatively impact the quality of health care equity and patient safety.” 

According to plaintiffs, the Trump administration it trying to rollback protections put in place by the Obama administration.

“The Trump administration can’t change this law so what they’re trying to do is interpret the law in such a way by rolling back these protections that the Obama administration put in place,” explained Ellen LaPointe CEO of Fenway Health.

LaPointe said the rollback rule would potentially take effect on August 18th. The suit filed on Thursday night is asking for an injunction to stop it.

“It’s unconscionable that they would purposely make it harder for LGBTQIA people to access essential health care and health insurance,” said LaPointe. “This is unacceptable and cannot stand.”

Fenway Health serves over 33,000 patients at its three Boston locations and through its telehealth program in 20 states.

Just over 40 percent of Fenway’s patients identify as LGBTQ and about 12 percent are transgender or gender diverse.

While Fenway provides health regardless of ability to pay, it generates about three quarters of its operating revenue from patient services.

LaPointe told Boston 25 News Reporter Drew Karedes she’s concerned health insurers could be allowed to reduce or eliminate coverage for LGBTQIA people.

“If this happens, we may not be able to secure reimbursement for the essential care and services we provide our community,” said LaPointe. “We’re taking a stand on behalf of everyone who would be impacted by this rule nationally.”

The lawsuit also states that the rule could allow for denial of certain services related to abortion.

“The Rollback Rule emboldens discrimination based on pregnancy, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom, and childbirth or related medical conditions.  It also specifically targets abortion by importing religious and abortion exemptions, which will harm a wide range of individuals who have had or are seeking abortion care, miscarriage management, or treatment for ectopic pregnancies,” the suit reads.

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