HHS is seeking new protections for vulnerable populations to protect them from discrimination and ensure they have equal access to healthcare and health coverage.
A newly proposed rule from HHS would assist vulnerable populations gain equal access to healthcare and health coverage. The Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities rule will extend all civil rights obligations to the health insurance marketplaces and HHS health programs and activities.
A section of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) already extended civil rights protections banning sex discrimination to health programs and activities, and the proposed rule establishes that the prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity.
“This proposed rule is an important step to strengthen protections for people who have often been subject to discrimination in our health care system,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “This is another example of this administration’s commitment to giving every American access to the health care they deserve.”
In addition to the insurance exchanges and HHS programs and activities, the rule encompasses any programs or activities that receive any funding from HHS, such as hospitals accepting Medicare patients or physicians who treat Medicaid patients.
Under the ACA the Office for Civil Rights has been accepting complaints, but this proposed rule makes it clear that individuals who are victims of discrimination can seek legal remedies. The rule bars issuers on the exchanges from marketing practices or benefit designs that discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.
Among the new protections included in the proposed rule: