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Healthcare Providers Required to Implement Non-Discrimination Practices under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act

By Samantha Prokop

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age by any health care program or activity which receives federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. It is the first Federal civil rights law to broadly prohibit sex discrimination in health programs and activities.  The Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a final rule implementing regulations related to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which were effective July 18, 2016.  Certain notice provisions are effective October 16, 2016.

For health care providers, the rule applies to “covered entities” who receive Federal financial assistance through the Department of Health and Human Services. This applies to providers who participate in Medicaid, CHIP, some Medicare programs, or receive Meaningful Use Payments.

The final regulations contain specific requirements regarding anti-discrimination provisions and training. Covered entities with fifteen (15) or more employees are required to designate a compliance coordinator and implement a grievance procedure to handle patient complaints of discrimination.

In addition, the final rule contains numerous requirements for non-discrimination and accessibility notices and taglines in fifteen (15) of the most common non-English languages spoken by persons in the provider’s state, that must be included in all significant communications or publications as well as on the covered entity’s website. Covered entities must comply with notice and tagline requirements by October 16, 2016.

Covered entities that provide health insurance coverage to their employees should ensure that their health plans do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age. Covered entities can be held liable for discriminatory acts for plans they provide or administer to their employees.

Section 1557 violations are enforced by the Office of Civil Rights. Sanctions can include remedial action such as additional education, training, and monitoring, or can be more severe including the imposition of compensatory damages or a referral to the Department of Justice for Enforcement.  In addition, Section 1557 creates a private cause of action allowing individuals to sue in court for discrimination.

If you have questions regarding the final rule or need assistance developing or implementing required components of the final rule, contact Samantha Prokop at (904) 638-3065; Samantha@rezlegal.com.

 

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