September 14, 2015
OCR seeks comments on Affordable Care Act proposed rule that bans health care discrimination
On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The proposed rule is designed to ensure that vulnerable populations can obtain equal access to health care and health coverage.
Section 1557 is the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act and it specifically addresses populations that have historically been subject to discrimination. The law, and the proposed rule implementing the law, prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, and disability. They extend to Health Insurance Marketplaces and HHS health programs and activities the prohibition against discrimination based on sex. The proposed rule also includes gender identity discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.
The proposed rule, Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities, requires effective communication for individuals with disabilities, including through the provision of auxiliary aids and services; establishes standards for accessibility of buildings and facilities; and requires that programs provided through electronic and information technology be accessible, unless the entity can show undue financial and administrative burdens or a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program or activity. It also enhances language assistance for people with limited English proficiency.
The proposed rule requires that women be treated equally by health care providers. It also adds protections against discrimination based on gender identity. For example, some insurance policies have historically contained categorical exclusions on coverage of all care related to gender transition. The proposed rule prohibits such exclusions and requires that individuals be treated consistent with their gender identity, including in access to facilities.
The proposed rule applies to health insurance programs and other activities that receive federal funding, including the Health Insurance Marketplace and other health coverage plans. ACL grantees that provide health related activities should review the proposed rule to determine how the activities they provide may be affected.
OCR is seeking public comment on the proposed rule and will accept comments until November 6, 2015. Comments should be submitted electronically through regulations.gov.
Click here to read the Federal Register Notice proposal and make comments.