Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the health care reform law) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability with respect to certain "health programs or activities."
The prohibition extends to exclusion of participation, denial of benefits and being subjected to discrimination under any "health program or activity any part of which is receiving Federal financial assistance, including credits, subsidies, or contracts of insurance."
The nondiscrimination law relating to health programs and activities is already in effect. Recently complaints claiming sex discrimination were filed against five institutions that deny pregnancy coverage from the health insurance benefits provided to employees' dependent children. In interpretative guidance issued by HHS, the department concluded that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotypes is discrimination on the basis of sex.
Regulations implementing Section 1557 have not been proposed. However, on August 1, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") filed a request for information seeking individuals' experience with discrimination in health programs and activities. "Health programs or activities" identified by HHS include health insurance coverage, medical care in a physician's office or hospital and home health care.
HHS is seeking specific input on access to health programs and activities for individuals with limited English proficiency, including input on translation services, interpretive services and competence (e.g. bilingual staff).
The request for information also places an emphasis on receiving information on the benefits and barriers encountered by people with disabilities in accessing electronic and information technology in health programs and activities.
The deadline for supplying information to HHS is September 30, 2013.
For more on nondiscrimination in health programs and activities, contact members of the Health Law Practice Group at Bradley & Riley PC.
Categories: Health Law