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“This is not the time we want people to avoid seeking care and treatment.”

The Trump administration are quietly moving forward with a new rule that would allow doctors to refuse transgender patients.

According to Politico, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule would reverse Obama-era protections under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination in healthcare services based on sex and gender identity.

The White House have also updated their website confirming the Obama rule is under review.

LGBTQ activists fear that this rule would allow workers in the medical field to turn away queer patients, especially transgender patients, who already face overwhelming levels of discrimination from healthcare providers.

According to a recent study commissioned by CAP, 29% of transgender adults said a healthcare provider refused to treat them because of their gender identity. LGBTQ people are also seven times more likely to avoid a visit to the hospital or doctors office due to fear of discrimination.

Georgetown University professor Katie Keith said: “If the final rule is anything like the proposed rule, HHS is adopting changes that would be harmful in the best of times but that are especially cruel in the midst of a global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities and exacerbating disparities.”

A HHS spokesperson declined to comment on the introduction of this barbaric rule, but said a federal court “has vacated the gender identity provisions of the regulation and we are abiding by that court order.”

They added: “We do not comment on the rulemaking process and refer you to recent public filings made by the Department of Justice before the Supreme Court on what constitutes sex discrimination under civil rights laws.”

Roger Severino, the HHS civil rights chief, defended the Trump administration for their approach to vulnerable patients, saying: “HHS will vigorously enforce civil rights laws as passed by Congress, before, during, and after any rulemaking.”

He continued to say that Obama’s administration “declined to recognize sexual orientation as a protected category under Obamacare, and HHS proposed to leave that judgment undisturbed.”

Sharita Gruberg, the director of policy for the LGBTQ Research at CAP, slammed the new rule.

“I’m really scared about what that means for testing, for treatment, for people’s comfort-seeking care. This is not the time we want people to avoid seeking care and treatment,” she said.

Earlier this year, more than LGBTQ organisations released a joint open letter to healthcare providers and mainstream media outlets, saying queer people are more likely to contract the coronavirus for three specific reasons.

The letter states: “The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50 percent higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.”

LGBTQ people are also at risk because our community has higher rates of HIV and cancer, “which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.”

The third and final factor in LGBTQ people being more vulnerable is because we “continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings.

“As a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.”

Related: Trump administration proposes to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ couples.