HHS-OCR Complaints Re COVID-19 Treatment Rationing

States: Washington, Alabama

Date Filed: March 2020

Agency: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights

Overview: The Complaint concerns illegal disability discrimination that is putting the lives of people with disabilities at imminent risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 cases increase, the experience in other countries and predictions of U.S. health officials is that there will not be enough acute care services or equipment, such as ventilators, to meet the demand of patients with the virus who require intensive treatment. Health care professionals in the United States are already developing protocols for responding to COVID-19, including treatment rationing that will determine who will and will not have access to life-saving treatment. These complaints concern rationing plans being put in place in various states, which discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Excerpt: “OCR has a very brief moment to intercede. If OCR fails to act swiftly to clearly and firmly articulate the violation of civil rights implicated by the rationing plan about to be unveiled in Washington, there will be no way to undo the lethal outcome of the discriminatory plans that have been formulated without OCR’s guidance. We implore you to enforce the obligations of the health care professionals in Washington to develop non-discriminatory approaches to the delivery of care before it is too late.”

Case Documents

HHS-OCR Complaint: Washington

HHS-OCR Complaint: Alabama

HHS-OCR Complaint: Tennessee

Related Media

Press Release: Disability Discrimination Complaint Filed Over COVID-19 Treatment Rationing Plan in Washington State

Press Release: Disability Discrimination Complaint Filed Over Alabama’s COVID-19 Treatment Rationing Plan

New York Times: Will Disabled People Be at a Disadvantage for Scarce Coronavirus Treatment?

U.S. News: Rights Groups: Coronavirus Treatment Plan Discriminates

Bloomberg Law: Virus Stokes Discrimination Concerns From Disability Groups (2)

NPR: Disability Groups File Federal Complaint About COVID-19 Care Rationing Plans

NPR: People With Disabilities Say Rationing Care Policies Violate Civil Rights

Seattle Times: People with disabilities would suffer if coronavirus care is rationed, advocates say in civil-rights complaint 

The Appeal: The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Brought Out Society’s Alarming Disregard for People With Disabilities

Bloomberg Law: Alabama’s Virus Ventilator Plan Latest to Draw Ire of Disabled

MyNorthwest: Advocacy group says people with disabilities could get denied COVID-19 treatment

AL.com: Alabama limit on ventilators discriminates against intellectually disabled, advocates claim

ProPublica: People With Intellectual Disabilities May Be Denied Lifesaving Care Under These Plans as Coronavirus Spreads