California Department of Insurance Takes Steps to Protect the Rights of the LGBTQ+ Community

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By Jennifer Wilczynski

On June 12, 2020, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a statement disapproving the Trump Administration’s reversal of non-discrimination protections under section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Without heeding the warning and dissatisfaction from 18 state insurance commissioners (including Lara) last year, the Trump Administration eliminated certain health plan protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. Commissioner Lara stated that this new policy sacrifices the health and safety of an already vulnerable community and was made with the “intent to harm [the] LGBTQ community.”

Additionally, on June 15, 2020, the Commissioner put all California health insurers on notice following the federal action. In the notice, the Department of Insurance reminded state health insurers that California antidiscrimination laws must still be adhered to regardless of the Trump Administration’s removal of gender identity and sexual orientation protections. Among other things, the antidiscrimination requirements in California include a prohibition against refusing to accept an application or issue an insurance policy, or canceling insurance policies in a manner that discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, ancestry, or sexual orientation.

On July 9, 2020, Equality California, a nonprofit that works towards LGBTQ+ rights, joined Plaintiffs National Women’s Law Center, Transgender Law Center, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation in filing a complaint against the Trump Administration. Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth (BAGLY), et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Alex M. Azar, et al. Case No. 1:20-cv-11297 (D. Mass.). The lawsuit challenges the ‘Rollback Rule’ as undermining LGBTQ+ healthcare protections against discrimination in section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Equality California has publicly commended Commissioner Lara as the first openly LGBTQ+ individual to be elected statewide in California.

Consumers who allege they have been subject to unlawful discrimination should contact the Department of Insurance’s Consumer Complaint Center at 1-800-927-4357 or submit a complaint on the website at www.insurance.ca.gov.

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