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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


~ HHS Final Rule would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against patients and refuse to provide necessary health care ~

RICHMOND (May 21, 2019) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a coalition of 23 cities, states, and municipalities in a lawsuit filed against a Final Rule issued by the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against patients and refuse to provide necessary health care. The federal lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks to enjoin the Final Rule and prevent it from going into effect. Additionally, the Rule states that if any states or cities do not comply they run the risk of losing critical federal health care funding. The lawsuit follows up on a comment letter filed by Attorney General Herring and his colleagues in March 2018, when the rule was first proposed, urging the rule be withdrawn.


“No one should have to fear being discriminated against by a health care provider, and health care providers should not have the option to discriminate against patients,” said Attorney General Herring. “This Rule would set a dangerous precedent of subjective health care in this country and we can’t let that happen. I will continue to protect all Virginians and stand up against the Trump Administration’s attempts to undermine quality health care both in the Commonwealth and across the nation.”


Attorney General Herring and his colleagues allege in the lawsuit that the Final Rule, which will take effect in July 2019, 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 Procedures Act and the Spending Clause and separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution.  


Joining Attorney General Herring in filing the lawsuit are the City of New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, the City of Chicago, and Cook County, Illinois.  


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