Kaul sues Trump administration over rule allowing healthcare discrimination

By: - July 20, 2020 2:40 pm
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaking

Attorney General Josh Kaul (photo by Susan Ruggles CC BY 2.0)

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is suing the Trump administration to stop a rule change that would allow healthcare providers and insurance companies to discriminate against LGBTQ and non-English speaking individuals as well as women. 

Kaul joins a 23-state coalition filing suit today against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HHS Secretary Alex Azar and head of HHS Office of Civil Rights Roger Severino.

The Trump administration proposed changing a rule to remove express protections put in place in 2016 in the Affordable Care Act to prohibit discrimination. 

“The Trump Administration’s move attempts to make it easier to discriminate in health care against women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those with limited English proficiency,” Kaul said in a statement. “That’s wrong, it violates the law, and we’re fighting it.”

While President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have failed to get rid of the Affordable Care Act through legal and legislative challenges thus far, rule changes are one way they have tried to chip away at ACA protections. The original wording of the ACA prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age. Federal court rulings have clarified that these prohibitions against discrimination also protect transgender individuals.

The rule change to alter specific nondiscrimination protections based on sex, gender identity, and association, as well as language access requirements is set to take effect Aug. 18. 

Gov. Tony Evers authorized joining the lawsuit and several of his cabinet members praised the move by Kaul.

Andrea Palm 5/21/20
Andrea Palm

“The Department of Health Services is committed to protecting and promoting the health of all Wisconsinites,” said Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Undermining the anti-discrimination protections provided in the Affordable Care Act would put the health and well-being of many Wisconsinites at risk and we must do everything we can to preserve the integrity of those protections.”

Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable praised Kaul’s leadership and stressed the necessity of equal access to health insurance for everyone. “We continue to affirm fair and equal access to health insurance coverage and benefits for all Wisconsinites,” he said. “Banning discrimination requires that we all work together to call out unfair application of the law.”

The lawsuit wa filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, “the coalition argues that HHS has unlawfully ignored the harms that the new rule will impose on vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals with limited English proficiency and women, as well as other protected classes. The coalition additionally contends that HHS has failed to justify why it abandoned its prior policy, which, among other things, explicitly prohibited discrimination in healthcare and required health entities to provide meaningful language assistance services to individuals with limited English proficiency, including notifying them of their rights to translation and interpretation services. The lawsuit finally alleges that the Trump Administration was motivated by animus toward the transgender community in issuing this rule.”


Several LGBTQ rights groups are also challenging the rule change in court.

“Healthcare and health insurance should be affordable and accessible to every Wisconsinite, period,” said Evers. “We have and will continue to do everything we can to protect healthcare for folks across our state.”

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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.