Physicians Must Post Non-Discrimination Statements by October 17
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) earlier this year issued final regulations implementing a provision (Section 1557) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs and activities. Most notably, Sec. 1557 is the first federal civil rights law to broadly prohibit sex discrimination in health programs and activities.

This final rule applies to any individual or entity that provides or administers health-related services or insurance coverage and receives "federal financial assistance. 

While federal financial assistance is defined as including Medicare and Medicaid, it does not include Medicare Part B. Most physicians, even with the Part B exclusion, would be implicated under the new regulations. Regulations would also apply to physicians who currently receive payments under Medicaid, the electronic health record meaningful use program, and the Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In addition to these financial arrangements, other examples of financial assistance include HHS grants and gain-sharing demonstration projects.

Notice Requirements

By October 17, physicians and other covered entities must take appropriate initial and continuing steps to notify patients of the following:

1.    the covered entity does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in its health programs and activities;

2.    the covered entity provides appropriate auxiliary aids and services to individuals with disabilities;

3.    the covered entity provides language assistance services;

4.    how to obtain the aids and services noted above;

5.    the identification and contact of a responsible employee (required only for a covered entity with 15 or more employees);

6.    the availability of grievance procedures;

7.    how to file a discrimination complaint.

HHS has developed a sample notice of discrimination that covered entities can use to post this information, as well as a sample statement of nondiscrimination. This information must be provided in English and accompanied by a tagline that informs individuals with limited English proficiency of language assistance services.

The covered entity must post the required notice and taglines in at least the top 15 languages spoken by individuals with limited English proficiency of the relevant State(s). This information must be in a conspicuously-visible font size and included in:

  •  significant publications and significant communications targeted to patients and members of the public.
  •  in conspicuous physical locations where the entity interacts with the public; and
  •  in a conspicuous location on the covered entitys website accessible from the home page of the covered entitys website.

In significant publications and communications that are small sized, such as postcards and trifold brochures, only the nondiscrimination statement and taglines in at least the top two languages spoken in the State(s) are required.

Grievance Procedures

Each covered entity that employs 15 or more people shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out the responsibilities under Sec. 1557. These entities must also adopt grievance procedures that incorporate due process standards.  

Resources

Sec. 15577 compliance resources can be found on the HHS OCR website.

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