President Donald Trump’s administration has withdrawn a measure aimed at protecting LGBTI seniors.
Becker’s Hospital Review reported the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, withdraw several rules last week.
One of those was a proposed rule guaranteeing long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds (which includes almost all such facilities) treat same-sex spouses equal to opposite-sex spouses
The Advocate notes the rule was proposed in 2014 under President Barack Obama’s administration, following the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor v. U.S. decision, which struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act and allowed the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
By proposing the rule, the Department of Health and Human Services tried to assure that long-term care providers adhered to federal law, rather than defer to state law on same-sex marriage. At the time, not all states recognized same-sex marriage.
According to the Trump administration, the nation’s highest court’s 2015 decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, is all that is needed to ensure equal treatment of same-sex spouses.
‘In light of the Obergefell decision, we have decided to withdraw the December 2014 proposed rule,’ wrote Seema Verma, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator. ‘We believe that the Obergefell decision has addressed many of the concerns raised in the December 2014 proposed rule.’
Important to name groups protected
As New England’s Rainbow Times points out, the Supreme Court has previously indicated it is important to specifically name groups who are protected from discrimination if a nondiscrimination law is to have its intended effect.
In the Supreme Court’s 1996 decision on Romer v. Evans, which overturned Colorado’s antigay Amendment 2, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, ‘Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply.’
Boston’s Fenway Health, which has a large number of LGBTI clients, notes such rules protecting LGBTI people and same-sex couples are vital.
‘We have found that it is critically important to educate staff about basic rights that LGBT people have under the law, and the responsibilities all staff have toward patients or residents who are in same-sex relationships,’ said Stephen L. Boswell, CEO of Fenway Health.
‘A landmark Supreme Court ruling, regardless of how momentous it was, does not erase that need to educate healthcare providers and administrators,’ Boswell continued. ‘By rescinding this important guidance, the likelihood has increased that LGBT people and same-sex couples will experience discrimination, neglect and abuse in long-term care, nursing homes, and hospitals.’