Attorney General Becerra Files Lawsuit Challenging Trump Administration’s Rule Rolling Back ACA Healthcare Anti-Discrimination Protections

Monday, July 20, 2020
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and New York Attorney General Leticia James, today, leading a coalition of 23 attorneys general, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s final rule undermining “Nondiscrimination in Health and Health Education Programs or Activities” (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination in healthcare based on gender, race, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The Trump Administration's final rule undermines Section 1557's critical anti-discrimination protections for marginalized populations including the LGBTQ community, women, communities of color, and individuals with disabilities, at a time when they are most needed to help address the coronavirus pandemic. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Section 1557 rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
 
“Hard to believe any President would willingly expose Americans to discrimination in healthcare. But that’s what President Trump’s latest  rule would do,” said Attorney General Becerra. “In the midst of a global pandemic, it is critical that our leaders open doors to care and push back against existing biases in our healthcare system. Too many Americans already struggle to access essential care. We don’t need discrimination to make it worse. But this guy won’t stop, so neither will we. We’re taking President Trump to court to stop discrimination.” 

The ACA prohibits discrimination in federal healthcare — from Medicaid, Medicare, and the healthcare exchanges, to federal healthcare grant programs providing safeguards against discrimination. Further, the ACA expressly seeks to provide equity in healthcare and prohibits any regulation that creates unreasonable barriers for individuals to obtain healthcare. The Trump Administration's final rule contradicts this and other federal civil rights laws by rolling back anti-discrimination protections for communities of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, those with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities, effectively sanctioning discrimination in our healthcare system. Data shows that the coronavirus pandemic is already exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare that the ACA attempted to address, particularly in states that have not expanded Medicaid. 
 
In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that the Trump Administration’s final rule undermining Section 1557's anti-discrimination protections is unlawful because it:

  • Conflicts with the ACA and the APA; 
  • Misconstrues federal civil rights laws including Title IX;
  • Exceeds HHS’s authority by redefining which communities are subject to Section 1557's anti-discrimination protections; and
  • Violates the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On April 30, 2020, Attorneys General Becerra, Healey and James led a multistate coalition in filing a comment letter urging HHS not to finalize its proposed regulation undermining the ACA’s critical Section 1557 anti-discrimination protections.
 
Attorneys General Becerra, Healey and James, are joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the complaint is available here.

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