Benefits Insights, Winter 2016
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule, Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities, to implement the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This rule, which would explicitly prohibit discrimination in any health program or activity of a covered entity, is intended to advance health equity and reduce disparities in health care.
Section 1557 bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs and activities. The proposed rule would be the first federal civil rights law to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender in health care. The rule would extend nondiscrimination protections to individuals enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and certain other health coverage plans. It also would cover HHS health programs.
The proposed rule explains consumers’ rights under the law and provides clarity to covered entities about their obligations. Essentially the rule would apply to covered entities that offer health care programs and activities that are federally funded. HHS’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) would be responsible for enforcing the protections against discrimination.
The public had two months to comment on the proposed rule. The OCR is now considering those comments as it drafts the final rule, which is expected sometime in early 2016. The rule would take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.