Federal Government Finalizes New Health Care Disability Discrimination Rules

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released final rules implementing the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination protections, clarifying and expanding on the obligations of health care providers to accommodate patients with disabilities.

Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) bars health care providers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the “basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping.”

As to disability discrimination, the new regulations focus on the obligations of providers to provide effective communication.

Specifically, the regulations clarify that providers must ensure that its communications are “as effective as” those provided to those without disabilities.

New and altered facilities are required to come into compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and therefore electronic and information technology must be made accessible.

Although the HHS has accepted anti-discrimination complaints under the ACA since the law’s passage, the new regulations provide far more guidance on how the law’s mandate should be interpreted.

The new regulations also clarify obligations for transgender individuals and people with limited English proficiency.

These new rules go into effect July 18, 2016.

Posted by Sheri R. Abrams, Attorney at Law, Fairfax Virginia, www.sheriabrams.com