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HHS Announces Proposed Rule to Strengthen Nondiscrimination in Health Care

On July 25, the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revise regulations relating to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics), in covered health programs or activities.

Regulations relating to Section 1557 are already in place. According to an OCR statement, however, the previous version of this rule limited its scope to cover fewer programs and services, limiting nondiscrimination protections than the OCR believes is needed.

A fact sheet summarizes the proposed rule, which includes the following, among other issues:

  • Clarification that Section 1557 nondiscrimination requirements apply to health insurance issuers;
  • Alignment of sex discrimination requirements with Federal court decisions;
  • A directive to implement Section 1557 anti-discrimination policies and procedures to give staff clear guidance on the provision of language assistance services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals, and effective communication and reasonable modifications to policies and procedures for people with disabilities; and
  • Addresses nondiscrimination in the provision of health programs and activities through telehealth services.

“Strengthening Section 1557 supports our ongoing efforts to provide high-quality, affordable health care and to drive health equity for all people served by our programs,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Publication of the proposal initiates a 60-day public comment period, and the agency is expected to issue a final rule later this year after analyzing the input received. LeadingAge Minnesota will provide additional information as the regulatory process continues.

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