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May 23, 2024Advocacy Matters

New Section 1557 Federal Regulations Strengthens Protections Against Discrimination in Healthcare

New Section 1557 Federal Regulations Strengthens Protections Against Discrimination in Healthcare

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

 #AdvocacyMatters Segment

New Section 1557 Federal Regulations Strengthens Protections Against Discrimination in Healthcare

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On May 6, 2024, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new regulation under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The new regulation reinforces the federal commitment to prohibit discrimination in healthcare settings.  The updated regulation aims to enhance protections for individuals based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity, ensuring equitable access to healthcare services for all Americans. The regulations were needed because the former administration had gutted those protections.

These are the key highlights of the new Section 1557 regulation.

  1. Expanded Protections Based on Sex. The new regulation explicitly includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  This ensures that LGBTQ+ individuals receive equal treatment in healthcare settings.
  2. Strengthened Language Access Requirements. Healthcare providers are required to offer meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). This includes providing language assistance services, such as qualified interpreters and translated materials, to ensure effective communication and understanding of medical information. Healthcare providers, insurers and federal grantees must proactively let people know that language assistance is available at no cost to the patient.
  3. Enhanced Accessibility for Individuals with Disabilities. The regulation mandates that healthcare facilities and programs must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. This includes providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, such as sign language interpreters and accessible electronic information technology. Telehealth must be accessible to people with disabilities.
  4. Protections Against Race and National Origin Discrimination. The regulation reaffirms the prohibition of discriminatory practices based on race and national origin, including policies that disproportionately impact certain racial or ethnic groups. Healthcare providers must take proactive steps to ensure that all patients receive equitable care.
  5. Clear Grievance Procedures. The regulation requires healthcare entities to establish clear grievance procedures for individuals who believe they have been subjected to discrimination. This ensures that complaints are addressed promptly and effectively, promoting accountability and transparency.

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The civil rights community, including people with disabilities, have advocated for more robust protections when accessing healthcare. We are a community that has historically faced barriers to health. The expanded protections under Section 1557 will help create a more just and equitable healthcare system for everyone.

For more information and links to the information we discussed in this week’s #AdvocacyMatters segment, visit www.disabilityrightspa.org.  Click on today’s #AdvocacyMatters segment.

Links

Final Rule

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2024/05/06/2024-08711/nondiscrimination-in-health-programs-and-activities

U.S. Health and Human Services Press Release

https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2024/04/26/hhs-issues-new-rule-strengthen-nondiscrimination-protections-advance-civil-rights-health-care.html