HHS Finalizes Non-Discrimination in Health Programs and Activities Rule

On May 13, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issued a final rule on discrimination in health care based on race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex. The “Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities” rule implements Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which is the first federal civil rights law to broadly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded health programs.

“A central goal of the Affordable Care Act is to help all Americans access quality, affordable health care,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said. “Today’s announcement is a key step toward realizing equity within our health care system and reaffirms this Administration’s commitment to giving every American access to the health care they deserve.”

The rule prohibits health-care providers, such as hospitals that accept Medicare and doctors who participate in the Medicaid program, from discriminating based on pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping. It also provides enhanced language assistance for people with limited English proficiency and helps to ensure effective communication for individuals with disabilities.

Some of the key provisions include:

  • Requiring equal treatment for women and men, both in the health care they receive and in insurance charges
  • Prohibiting the denial of health care or health coverage based on sex
  • Requiring health-care providers to make electronic information and newly constructed or altered facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities
  • Providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services for patients with disabilities
  • Requiring entities to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services press release, May 13, 2016.