Court blocks HHS changes to ACA non-discrimination rule

A federal district court in New York yesterday blocked the Department of Health and Human Services from revising a 2016 rule implementing nondiscrimination protections for patients under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

The nationwide preliminary injunction keeps in effect the 2016 definition of discrimination on the basis of sex, and enjoins HHS from enforcing its recent rule implementing changes pending further order from the court. The rule was scheduled to take effect today.

In June, the Supreme Court held that the definition of sex under Title VII, the federal law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

“When the Supreme Court announces a major decision, it seems a sensible thing to pause and reflect on the decision’s impact,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Frederic Block. … “Since HHS has been unwilling to take that path voluntarily, the Court now imposes it.”

AHA had strongly urged HHS not to finalize the proposal, expressing concerns that “narrowing the current regulation’s protections against discrimination based on sex, including gender identity, sexual orientation and sex stereotypes, could have an adverse impact on access to care and the health of individuals.” The association also raised concerns that the changes would limit the circumstances in which prohibitions against discrimination would apply to health insurers.