Wednesday, May 25, 2016

OCR Releases Nondiscrimination Rule

Dianne De La Mare

On May 13, 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published the Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities; Final Rule, implementing §1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health care programs (including the Medicare and Medicaid programs), effective July 18, 2016.

Section 1557 extends nondiscrimination protections to individuals participating in:
1) any health program receiving HHS funding;
2) any health program administered by HHS; or
3) health insurance marketplaces and all plans offered by issuers that participate in those marketplaces.

Section 1557 builds on long-standing federal civil rights laws including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (prohibits race, color or national origin discrimination), Title IX of the Education Amendments (prohibits sex discrimination), the Rehabilitation Act, § 504 (prohibits disability discrimination) and the Age Discrimination Act (prohibits age discrimination). The rule specifically focuses on assurance and notice requirements; general prohibitions; discrimination against persons with limited English proficiency; discrimination against persons with disabilities; sex, gender and sexual orientation and enforcement.

Since the passage of the ACA in 2010, §1557 has been in effect and OCR has been enforcing this provision. In light of this final rule, however, AHCA/NCAL encourages its membership to review the recently released HHS press release, summary and fact sheets, to determine any areas for strengthened compliance.

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