WASHINGTON—Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in response to the appointment of Roger Severino to be Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
“The Office for Civil Rights at HHS is essential to ensuring that all people can lead healthy lives, free of discriminatory barriers. Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination based on race, sex, disability and age in health programs and activities, is key to achieving this goal. Strong and experienced leadership at OCR committed to fully enforcing Section 1557 is therefore critical. Mr. Severino is not that leader.
Since enactment of the ACA seven years ago today, members of The Leadership Conference have strongly advocated for the full and complete implementation of Section 1557. In his previous position at the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Severino repeatedly denounced and actively worked to oppose OCR’s implementation of Section 1557. These actions call into question his ability to fully enforce the ACA and protect communities of color and other underserved populations, who are most at risk for unequal access to health and health care.
This appointment, made without fanfare, is part of disturbing trend by the Trump administration of naming people who disagree or outright oppose the mission or role of an agency or office to leadership positions within those entities. Absent a change by Congress, these offices and their leaders have an obligation to serve the American people, consistent with their mandate.
The Leadership Conference and its members will work to ensure that those who are tasked with enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws and policies do exactly that.”
Wade Henderson is president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.