Feds Seek Comments on Health Care Prejudice

     WASHINGTON (DC) – The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights is asking for information on individual experiences of discrimination in health programs, to be used in developing anti-discrimination regulations, the agency announced in a request for information.
     Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is based on a landscape of existing civil rights laws that prohibit exclusion from health programs or discrimination based on race, sex and age, the OCR said in its action.
     The existing laws include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (race, color, national origin), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (gender), the Age discrimination Act of 1975 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (disability).
     Each act has varying provisions and enforcement mechanisms. The OCR is now tasked with developing regulations for health programs, but taking into consideration current demographics, advances in technology and the changing face of health care, according to the OCR’s notice.
     “Almost 50 years have passed since Title VI was enacted and roughly 40 years have passed since Title IX, Section 504 and the Age Act were enacted. Since the enactment of these civil rights laws, the demographics of the United States have increasingly diversified, major advances in electronic and information technology have occurred and the health care landscape has changed, particularly with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act,” the OCR said in its action.
     The OCR is now requesting information on a range of issues to aid in its development of new regulations. Specifically, the OCR wants information on experiences of discrimination in health programs, examples of the types of programs and activities that should be considered health programs, the impacts of discrimination, access issues for individuals who cannot speak English and the boundaries and barriers for people with disabilities.
     In addition, the OCR wants comments on the effectiveness of current enforcement action and whether the investigation, mediation and litigation provisions have worked in addressing discrimination.
     Comments are due Sept. 30.

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