Howard County has joined an amicus brief seeking the invalidation of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that would strip anti-discrimination and foreign language protections from the Affordable Care Act.

“Without this essential rule, discrimination and safe access to care will continue to permeate our healthcare systems and cause severe impacts on people who identify as LGBTQ+ and who do not speak English as a first language,” said County Executive Calvin Ball. “Discrimination has a severe impact on mental and physical health, causes many to avoid preventative care, and negatively affects health outcomes of our residents. This is a critical protection to make our systems more equitable and safer for these communities.”

Howard County invests heavily to counteract the negative effects of healthcare discrimination on the LGBTQ+ community. The County invests in outreach, community engagement work, and compliant investigations to serve LGBTQ+ residents. The amicus brief also notes, “The cascading costs of discrimination are especially expensive for local governments, which bear primary responsibility for managing public safety-net benefits, economic supports, child welfare systems, and emergency and transitional housing.”

“Quality and accessible healthcare is a human right, which should never be based on ones gender identity or race,” said Jacqueline Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. “Howard County trusts that this proposal and any other legislative actions based in discriminatory ideology will be immediately replaced by constitutional principles rooted in equity and access for all”.

Howard County’s Human Rights Code also affords protections to individuals who may have been subjected to discrimination due to their gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, along with 12 other protected bases.

“No one should be subjected to discrimination for any reason, but to withhold or limit a basic necessity such as healthcare based on the language someone speaks or if they identify as LGBTQA+ is a blatant violation of one’s human rights,” said Yolanda Sonnier, Administrator of Howard County’s Office of Human Rights.

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Scott E