Hawaiʻi Attorney General Joins Fight Against Health Care Discrimination Rule

September 11, 2019, 10:32 AM HST · Updated September 13, 8:26 PM
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A new rule would allow health care providers to deny services based on “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

Last Friday, Hawaiʻi Attorney General Clare E. Connors joined a coalition of 26 public jurisdiction and health care providers requesting the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to block the Trump administrationʻs “Refusal-of-Care” rule. 

“This rule is illegal because it allows providers to refuse healthcare based on who someone is and what they believe,” Connors said in a press release sent on Monday.  

“It completely undermines the effective delivery of medical services to the people of Hawaiʻi and particularly for those members of our community who suffer disproportionally from discrimination.”

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The Trump Administrationʻs Department of Health and Human Services initially proposed the rule last January. 

Soon after, a coalition of attorney generals from around the country submitted a comment letter urging the administration to withdraw the rule.

However, the rule was adopted this past May, leading to a lawsuit from an alliance of states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

The suit argued that the rule would make essential health services less accessible for Americans across the country. 

In June, that same coalition sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from being implemented. 

The court has since pushed back the original implementation date of July to Nov. 22. 

On Monday, the coalition asked the court to hold that the “Refusal-of-Care” motion violates federal statutory law and the U.S. Constitution.

According to the attorney generalʻs press release, 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.”

Under the rule, the right to refusal is absolute and categorical. 

“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 press release continued. 

The risk of noncompliance, the lawsuit alleges, 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,” the press release read. 

The lawsuit further argues that this “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 US Constitution. 

The court did not yet set a date for when the rule would go into effect.

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