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AARP Fights Rollback of Civil Rights

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AARP and AARP Foundation are urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block a rule interpreting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act – a revision that rolls back key protections for LGBTQ older adults and patients with limited English proficiency (LEP), among others.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule is set to take effect August 18. In an amicus brief filed today, the organizations note that HHS’s revised rule would cause irreparable harm to LGBTQ older adults and those with LEP and would allow health care providers to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, sex stereotypes, and LEP status. These changes could be particularly harmful as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

"Just last month the Supreme Court ruled that federal law prohibits employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. HHS’s rule change flies in the face of that decision,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer. “Now more than ever, with COVID cases surging across the country, we must not open the door to discrimination by removing critical protections for LBGTQ older adults and those with limited ability to communicate in English.”

AARP has nearly 38 million members and 900,000 self-identified LGBTQ members.

According to the brief:

“Eradicating civil rights protections is always unacceptable and dangerous. The consequences of implementing the Revised Rule during a public health crisis are even more dire, and LGBTQ people and those with LEP will be harmed. LGBTQ older adults already face significant health disparities because of a lifetime of overt and systemic discrimination, putting them at greater risk of complications from the virus. Older adults with LEP are also especially vulnerable during this time, and erecting language barriers in their pathway to health care will exacerbate their difficulties and jeopardize access to providers. Care denied for a discriminatory purpose, or care delayed out of fear of the same, will cause irreparable harm. Especially during a worldwide pandemic, nothing could be more urgent than ensuring older adults continue to have access to health care services and insurance….

“Section 1557 is a landmark law that provides much-needed anti-discrimination protections to millions of older adults who could not access health care because of systemic and pervasive discrimination. The Revised Rule flouts the law and ends a decade of progress gained by vulnerable older adults who have been resilient in the face of hardships. Granting the injunction will help ensure that they can access health care while this public health crisis continues.”

Also on the brief is SAGE. Read the full amicus brief here.

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