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On May 24, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights issued a proposed rule to revise regulations implementing and enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

2019-state-of-the-union-addressThis section prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs.

In their proposal, the Office determined that the ACA interpreted the scope of Section 1557 “too broadly” and extended protections to programs and entities not covered by the text of the statute, interpreted nondiscrimination laws differently than other agencies have and created new provisions concerning language access not justified by law or policy.

If finalized, the proposed revision could have several large impacts, including:

  • Remove gender identity and termination of pregnancy from the list of protections against discrimination “on the basis of sex.”
  • Eliminate nondiscrimination notices and tagline requirements.
  • Limit the scope of HHS’s enforcement activities.
  • Align with the administration’s recent Conscience and Religious Freedom rule that allows healthcare workers to refrain from participating in health services for patients, where they feel the service may violate their religious views.

Some aspects of this proposed rule have been met with criticism from civil rights organizations.

To learn more, read the HHS’s fact sheet on the proposed rule.

So what do we do? Employers and covered entities should watch to see if these proposed rules will be finalized before making any changes. Until these rules are finalized, the existing Section 1557 rules remain in effect. 

If you need help interpreting and implementing compliance updates at your organization, we can help get you on track. Learn more below. 

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