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A Pride flag flies over the Mass. State House in Boston. Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule on Friday to reverse protections for transgender people established under the Affordable Care Act.

Why it matters: The action could make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny transgender people health coverage amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

  • HHS did not respond to a request for comment on how the new rule could affect transgender and LGBTQ people seeking health care as COVID-19 persists.

Catch up quick: The rollback rescinds an Obama administration rule that protected against discrimination on the basis of "gender identity" as well as sex — which allowed transgender people to be protected when seeking health care.

  • The rollback also removes Obama-era language that protected those who terminated a pregnancy from sex discrimination.
  • The Trump administration has tried to narrow the definition of gender as a "biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth" since at least 2018, by considering changes to the federal civil rights law Title IX.

What's next: Lambda Legal and the Human Rights Campaign announced separate lawsuits against the rule on Friday.

What they're saying: “It will eliminate mass confusion that was unleashed by the Obama-era decision to redefine sex to cover a wide array of gender identities, when sex as a biological reality is so important to the practice of medicine," Civil Rights Chief Roger Severino said Friday, of the rollback.

  • “LGBTQ people get sick. LGBTQ people need health care. LGBTQ people should not live in fear that they cannot get the care they need simply because of who they are," HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement on Friday. "It is clear that this administration does not believe that LGBTQ people, or other marginalized communities, deserve equality under the law."

Go deeper: Trump targets LGBTQ protections

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2020 - Health

WHO: Health care workers account for around 14% of coronavirus cases

A health worker collecting coronavirus samples in New Delhi on Sept. 16. Photo: Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Though health workers represent less than 3% of the population in many countries, they account for around 14% coronavirus cases reported to the World Health Organization, the organization announced Thursday.

Why it matters: The WHO called on governments and health care leaders to address threats facing the health and safety of these workers, adding that the pandemic has highlighted how protecting them is needed to ensure a functioning health care system.

7 mins ago - Health

Axios AM Deep Dive: Covid forever

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was 563 days ago that the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic. This Axios AM Deep Dive, led by healthcare reporter Caitlin Owens, looks at our Covid future.

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court judge on Friday temporarily blocked New York City schools from enforcing a vaccine mandate for school employees, days before it was set to take effect, AP reports.

Driving the news: The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system.