The Man Behind Trump’s Religious-Freedom Agenda for Health Care

Jun 7, 2017

By Emma Green

The offices inside the Department of Health and Human Services are aggressively tan. Roger Severino, the newly appointed head of its Office for Civil Rights, hasn’t done much by way of decoration. Aside from a few plaques and leftover exhibits from old cases, his Clarence Thomas bobblehead doll and crucifix are the only personal touches in his work space.

The media spends a lot of time tracking Donald Trump’s every move and chasing down members of Congress, but much of governing happens in these bland halls. Under Trump, HHS may see more changes than any other agency, in part because the president’s predecessor left his biggest mark here. As Congress stalls on passing a new health-care bill, the Trump administration can still fight Obamacare with revised regulations, rejiggered budgets, and lackluster enforcement.

Severino leads the office that could shape the future of two of the most high-stakes aspects of the health-care debate: abortion and contraception access and LGBT rights. OCR, as it’s known, is responsible for investigating civil-rights violations in health-care settings, including discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, and national origin. Under Barack Obama, HHS faced religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most employers cover birth control in their insurance plans, and OCR has dealt with the fall-out of those fights. It developed strict requirements for the language services hospitals have to provide to non-English speakers. Most controversially, it was responsible for interpreting Section 1557, the part of the health-care law that prohibits discrimination.

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3 comments on “The Man Behind Trump’s Religious-Freedom Agenda for Health Care

  • @OP – Most controversially, it was responsible for interpreting Section 1557, the part of the health-care law that prohibits discrimination.

    Perhaps these clowns asserting the “rights of the religious to discriminate against others”, should try a holiday hotel in a theocracy during Ramadan! !

    Tunisian smoker jailed for not fasting during Ramadan

    A Tunisian protester holds a placard which in French reads: “Why is it bothering you if you fast and I eat?”

    A leading rights group has condemned the imprisonment of a man in Tunisia for smoking a cigarette in public during the dawn-to-dusk Muslim fast.

    A court in north-western Bizerte town sentenced the man to one month in jail for “public indecency”.

    The ruling was an “absurd violation” of personal freedoms, Amnesty International said.

    Dozens protested on Sunday in the capital, Tunis, for the right to eat and drink in public during Ramadan.

    About a fortnight ago, four men were sentenced to one month in prison after eating in public.

    There are no laws in mainly Muslim Tunisia requiring individuals to fast or barring them from eating or smoking publicly during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Amnesty said.

    “The Tunisian authorities should not allow vaguely worded charges to be used to impose harsh sentences on spurious grounds,” it added in a statement.

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  • Meanwhile the Republicans in their enthusiasm to destroy the Obams administration’s work, continue to disagree among themselves.

    US Senate Republicans have delayed a vote on their healthcare bill until after next week’s 4 July holiday.
    The announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a setback to their plan to replace Obamacare.

    Five Republican senators had vowed to oppose the bill, and the party could only afford to lose two votes to get it passed in the upper chamber.

    US President Donald Trump has invited all Senate Republicans for a Tuesday afternoon meeting at the White House.

    A similar version to the bill has already passed the House.

    The House bill faced a similar delay, before eventually being passed by the Republican-controlled chamber.

    The news comes a day after the non-partisan Congressional Budgetary Office said the Senate bill would strip 22 million Americans of health insurance over the next 10 years.

    Mr McConnell told Republican senators during a private lunch that his plan to vote on the bill this week was no longer looking possible.

    At least five Senate Republicans – moderate senators Susan Collins and Dean Heller and conservatives Ron Johnson, Rand Paul and Mike Lee – had announced opposition to the bill.

    Democrats are not expected to support the proposed legislation, having lambasted it as a huge transfer of wealth from poor to rich.

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