A senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services has told transgender rights groups that federal health programmes and companies receiving federal dollars are barred from discriminating against trans people.

In a July letter to trans groups, Leon Rodriguez, the director of HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, said that HHS considers discrimination based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity” in federal health programmes or activities receiving funding under Affordable Care Act-covered programs to be illegal.

The news was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Maya Rupert of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a statement:”Transgender people face severe discrimination in healthcare settings and are often denied care completely.

“This announcement affirms that all patients in federally funded health care settings must be treated equally and may not be denied care simply because of who they are.

“We are grateful to HHS for clarifying this important policy and providing transgender people with the security of knowing they are included in the administration’s commitment to the health and well-being of all Americans.”