HHS Announces New Non-Discrimination Rule

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new rule to implement Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.

Discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or based on factors of other underserved populations creates unequal access to health and health care. Rather than being distributed equally, the burdens of costly health care fall disproportionately on communities of color and other underserved populations, which are more likely to experience higher rates of unemployment, to have jobs that do not have health insurance, and to have lower incomes that put higher insurance premiums out of their financial reach.

“We applaud today’s announcement, which represents a major milestone in the Obama administration’s efforts to ensure that everyone in America has access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage and health care,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, in a statement thanking Secretary Burwell and the Obama administration for the new civil rights protection. “Since enactment, members of The Leadership Conference have strongly advocated for the full and complete implementation of Section 1557. Our organizations raised numerous issues in comments on the proposed rule, outlining specific suggestions to ensure that the law fully protects people of color, women, people with disabilities, seniors, people whose primary language is not English, immigrants, and LGBT individuals.”

Section 1557 builds on longstanding federal civil rights laws, and is the first federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care.

“We are pleased that the rule includes important new protections to prohibit sex discrimination; protects transgender people on the basis of gender identity; and largely protects lesbian, gay, and bisexual people on the basis of sex stereotypes,” Henderson said. “While we understand that the law is evolving, we hope that in the future, HHS guidance will follow the lead of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in expressly clarifying that all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation are inherently sex-based and unlawful.”


To read an initial analysis of the final rule from the National Health Law Program, click here.

To read more from HHS about the final rule, click here.