RICHMOND(September 6, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 26 public jurisdictions and health care providers in filing a motion for summary judgment requesting that the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York block the Trump Administration’s refusal-of-care rule that would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against patients and refuse to provide necessary health care. Back in May, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed suit against the Trump Administration seeking to enjoin the new rule and prevent it from going into effect. In June, that same coalition sought a preliminary injunction to prevent implementation of the rule. The court pushed back the original implementation date of July 2019 for the rule, and today the coalition is asking the court to hold that the refusal-of-care rule violates federal statutory law and the U.S. Constitution.
“This dangerous rule is just another attempt by the Trump Administration to undermine health care in this country,” said Attorney General Herring. “Everyone deserves access to fair, quality health care without the fear of discrimination. I will continue to protect all Virginians and do everything I can to make sure that this rule never goes into effect.”
Attorney General Herring and his colleagues allege in the lawsuit that the final rule, if implemented, would undermine the delivery of health care by allowing a wide range of health care institutions and individuals the right to refuse care and discriminate against patients. The rule drastically expands the number of providers eligible to make such refusals, ranging from ambulance drivers to emergency room doctors to receptionists to customer service representatives at insurance companies. The rule makes this right absolute and categorical, and no matter what reasonable steps a health provider or employer makes to accommodate the views of an objecting individual, if that individual rejects a proposed accommodation, a provider or employer is left with no recourse.
The Rule would also allow businesses, including employers, to object to providing insurance coverage for procedures they consider objectionable, and allow individual health care personnel to object to informing patients about their medical options or referring them to providers of those options. The devastating consequences of the Rule would fall particularly hard on marginalized patients, including LGBTQ patients, who already confront discrimination in obtaining health care.
The lawsuit further alleges that the risk of noncompliance is the termination of billions of dollars in federal health care funding. If HHS determines, in its sole discretion, that states or cities have failed to comply with the final rule — through their own actions or the actions of thousands of sub-contractors relied upon to deliver health services — the federal government could terminate funding to those states and cities to the price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars. States and cities rely upon those funds for countless programs to promote the public health of their residents, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, HIV/AIDS and STD prevention and education, and substance abuse and mental health treatment.
The lawsuit argues that this drastic expansion of refusal rights, and the draconian threat of termination of federal funds, violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act, as well as the Spending and Establishment Clauses and the separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution.
Attorney General Herring today joined the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia; the Cities of New York and Chicago; and Cook County, Illinois in filing the motion. Additionally, two separate lawsuits were brought against the Trump Administration for implementation of this rule by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and one of its affiliates, as well as by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association and Public Health Solutions, which have now been consolidated into this lawsuit.