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No place for discrimination in health care or insurance industry

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Trinidad Navarro

Every year on Nov. 20, we recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance. The day creates a new awareness for some but is a somber date for countless others. Far too many members of our community are lost to violence or suicide that stems from discrimination.

We can’t be silent about this. There is no place for discrimination in Delaware or in our health-care systems, and there is no place for discrimination in the insurance industry.

Just a few years ago, we were celebrating the step toward equity that the Affordable Care Act represented. This powerful legislation ensured that across the country, health programs could not discriminate ““ whether on pre-existing conditions, or on the basis of race, color, nation of origin, sex, age, or disability. The act was transformational for the protections it provided to non-binary residents. Today, those protections are being trampled. 

In Washington, our federal government is creating an environment where discrimination can exist and even thrive in workplaces, in insurance and health care. If they continue on this trajectory, personal opinions about others could impact premiums and access to care, and in turn, devastate lives. 

At the request of the Trump Administration last May, the group tasked with ensuring enforcement of anti-discrimination measures, the Office of Civil Rights, proposed repealing these critical provisions, specifically targeting gender-identity protections. While the issue is debated in courts, the office can’t enforce these components of the law — not that it would ““ since it is led by a political appointee who previously worked for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank and notoriously anti-LGBT+ group.

If this proposal occurs, the impacts could be wide-reaching. A non-binary individual could be denied critical care at a religiously affiliated hospital emergency room. A person’s sexuality could impact their ability to receive even routine, preventative care. Premiums and policies could change for hundreds of thousands of people. The right to life will become conditional.

We won’t let it happen here. Locally, Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act outlaws any health insurance discrimination based on gender, and we will continue to apply those nondiscrimination requirements to any health plans offered through our Health Insurance Marketplace as well as the Essential Health Benefits we require every health insurance plan offered to individuals and small businesses to cover. Late in August, we joined 17 other states to urge for the withdraw of this proposal, which discriminates against the LGBT+ community. And, with the help of the General Assembly, we’ve even taken steps to eliminate discrimination in auto and home insurance policies, and we will continue to advocate for consumer protections every day.

While the elimination of discrimination is vital, creating an inclusive community means so much more. We need to actively seek opportunities to create parity in our organizations, inclusivity in the benefits provided, and positivity in the environment created. In mid-November, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) published their annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI), which measures LGBT+ friendliness in terms of area’s laws, programs, policies, and leadership. The MEI rated eight Delaware areas this year along with the state as whole. Delaware’s state score for non-discrimination laws was a 28 out of 30, earning recognition for our nondiscrimination laws that relate to employment, housing, public benefit, and anti-conversion therapy laws.

Unfortunately, the MEI showed that only one of our eight rated municipalities provides what HRC considers to be transgender-inclusive benefits to their employees.

We can do better. We can use our voices and our actions to reject discrimination and promote inclusion in our state, our community, and our places of work. Though the steps toward equity outlined in the Affordable Care Act are still under attack, we can work together to make sure that our residents’ rights are not. 

Trinidad Navarro is the Delaware Insurance Commissioner.

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