HHS-OCR Complaints Re COVID-19 Medical Discrimination

States: Washington, Alabama, Tennessee, Utah, Oklahoma, Connecticut, North Carolina, Oregon, Nebraska, Arizona, DC, Texas

Date Filed: 2020

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

Overview: These complaints concern illegal disability discrimination in medical care that is putting the lives of people with disabilities at imminent risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaints challenge discriminatory crisis standard of care plans, no-visitor policies, and inaccessible testing that violate 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).

Crisis Standard of Care Complaints






North Carolina



North Texas

No-Visitor Complaints


MedStar Health (D.C.)


MHHS Texas

Other Complaints

Inaccessible Testing: Nebraska

HHS-OCR Documents

HHS-OCR Bulletin: Civil Rights, HIPAA, and COVID-19

HHS-OCR Resolution: Alabama

HHS-OCR Resolution: Connecticut

HHS-OCR Resolution: Tennessee

HHS-OCR Resolution: Utah

HHS-OCR Resolution: Texas and North Carolina

HHS-OCR Resolution: Medstar Health

HHS-OCR Resolution: Arizona

FAQs for Healthcare Providers during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Federal Civil Rights Protections for Individuals with Disabilities under Section 504 and Section 1557

Additional Resources

Webinar: Disability Discrimination in the Rationing of Life Saving COVID Treatment: Who Gets Left Behind?

Applying HHS’s Guidance for States and Health Care Providers on Avoiding Disability-Based Discrimination in Treatment Rationing

Evaluation Framework for Crisis Standard of Care Plans 

Evaluation Framework for Hospital Visitor Policies

AADMD Statement on People with IDD and the Allocation of Ventilators During the COVID-19 Pandemic

50 State Crisis Standard of Care Plan Overview

Examining How Crisis Standards of Care May Lead to Intersectional Medical Discrimination Against COVID-19 Patients

Press Releases

Federal Civil Rights Resolution Makes Clear Hospital Visitor Policies Nationwide Must Accommodate Patients with Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic

State and National Groups File Federal Complaint Against Nebraska for Inaccessibility of COVID-19 Testing Program

Resolution of Federal Civil Rights Complaint Raises the Bar in Prohibiting Medical Discrimination Against People With Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 Hotspots Arizona and Texas Crisis Standard of Care Plans Challenged by State and National Groups in Federal Complaints

Resolution of Federal Complaint Amidst Nationwide COVID-19 Surge Raises Bar in Prohibiting Blanket DNRs, Medical Discrimination Against People With Disabilities

Amidst Nationwide COVID-19 Surge, Health & Civil Rights Groups Secure Federal Approval of Revised Crisis Standards of Care Guidelines in Texas

NC Increases COVID-19 Medical Rationing Protections for Disabled Patients

Coalition of Civil Rights Groups and Legal Scholars Release Report on Intersectional Medical Discrimination During COVID-19

MedStar Health Agrees to End Discriminatory Treatment of Patients with Disabilities in Federal Resolution

Civil Rights Groups Secure Federal Approval of Revised Crisis Standards of Care in Arizona

Related Media

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

The Hill: Trump officials say people with disabilities must not be denied lifesaving coronavirus care

NPR: HHS Warns States Not To Put People With Disabilities At The Back Of The Line For Care

NBC News: Ventilators limited for the disabled? Rationing plans are slammed amid coronavirus crisis

New York Times: U.S. Civil Rights Office Rejects Rationing Medical Care Based on Disability, Age

WTVC-TV NewsChannel 9 News: TN disability rights advocates: State regulations discriminate by rationing critical care

New York Times: At the Top of the Covid-19 Curve, How Do Hospitals Decide Who Gets Treatment?

The Atlantic: Americans With Disabilities Are Terrified

Vox: “We’re being punished again”: How people with intellectual disabilities are experiencing the pandemic

Washington Post: Who gets a shot at life if hospitals run short of ventilators?

ABC: People with disabilities call for assurances of COVID-19 care

Daily Beast: In These States, the Disabled Could Go to the Back of the Ventilator Line

The Center for Public Integrity: State Policies May Send People With Disabilities to the Back of the Line for Ventilators

cheddar: Alabama Cuts Policy That Made it Harder for Disabled Coronavirus Patients to Get Ventilators

AL.com: Alabama disavows plan to limit ventilators for disabled during shortages

Alabama Political Reporter: Feds resolve complaint over “discriminatory” Alabama emergency ventilator policy

Bloomberg Law: Alabama Takes Down Allegedly Discriminatory Ventilator Guidance (1)

The Hill: Alabama removes controversial ventilator guidelines that denied coronavirus care to disabled

Nashville Post: Group files complaint against state triage guidance to HHS

Forbes: The Disability Community Fights Deadly Discrimination Amid The COVID-19 Pandemic

NPR: People With Disabilities Fear Pandemic Will Worsen Medical Biases

BMJ: US ventilator crisis brings patients and doctors face-to-face with life-or-death choices

CT News Junkie: Disability Rights Groups File Complaint With Office of Civil Rights

New York Times: Coronavirus Crisis Exacts Toll on People With Disabilities

Eyewitness News 3: Formal discrimination complaint filed on behalf of people with disabilities

Disability Scoop: Hospital No-Visitor Policies Endanger People With Disabilities, Advocates Say

CNN: How hospitals make tough ethical calls about which lives to save during a pandemic

Hartford Courant: Advocates want parents of people with intellectual disabilities to be excused from Connecticut’s no-visit rule at hospitals during the coronavirus crisis

NPR: Federal Government Asked To Tell Hospitals Modify Visit Bans

The CT Mirror: Hospital visitor bans fail disabled patients, complaint says

U.S. News: Hospitals Ordered to Allow Support for Disabled Patients

CT News Junkie: Connecticut Settles Disability Complaint Over Hospital Visitation

Hartford Business Journal: CT, Hartford HealthCare resolve civil rights complaint over visitor restrictions

Bloomberg Law: Disabled Allowed Support Visitors in Connecticut Hospitals (1)

Hartford Courant: State issues order allowing people with disabilities companions in hospital settings, settling civil rights complaint

New York Times: Connecticut Hospitals Ordered to Allow Visitors for Patients With Disabilities

Disability Scoop: Hospitals Told To Allow Visitors For Individuals With Disabilities

U.S. News: Coronavirus Crisis Exacts Toll on People With Disabilities

Lincoln Journal Star: Disability Rights Nebraska files complaint over Test Nebraska access

Bloomberg Law: Tennessee Updates Virus Plan After Disability Groups Protest

New York Times: Who Gets Lifesaving Care? Tennessee Changes Rules After Federal Complaint

AZ Central: Disability rights groups file federal complaint about ‘medical rationing’ in Arizona

KJZZ: Disability And Civil Rights Groups File Formal Complaint Vs. Arizona Over Crisis Standards Of Care Plan

Forbes: Disabled Discriminated Against By Crisis Health Plans, Groups Charge In Federal Complaints

NBC DFW: Pandemic Triage Guidelines Violate Federal Law, Discriminate: Complaint

New York Times: Should Youth Come First in Coronavirus Care?

Politico: Trump administration steps in as advocacy groups warn of Covid ‘death panels

AP News: Utah sets pandemic safeguards for people with disabilities

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah revises emergency plans to protect people with disabilities

The Hill: How an unexpected collaboration led Utah to amend its discriminatory triage plan

Open Minds: COVID, Rationing, & Consumers With Disabilities: Where Are We?

NPR: As Hospitals Fear Being Overwhelmed By COVID-19, Do The Disabled Get The Same Access?

CBS DFW: Revised Pandemic Rationing Plan Protects Disabled Texans From Being Sent To Back Of Line For Ventilators

The Federalist: Elderly And Disabled People Should Not Be Put At The Back Of The Line For COVID Care

Texas Standard: Revised Health Care Guidelines Protect Texans With Disabilities From Discrimination, If Rationing Occurs

NPR: HHS Civil Rights Office Tackles Health Care Discrimination Of People With Disabilities

CNN: Many doctors have negative perceptions of patients with disabilities — and that impacts quality of care, study finds

NPR: MedStar Health Changes COVID-19 Protocols Following Discrimination Complaint

Bloomberg Law: Arizona Amends Virus Care Standards to Protect Disabled Patients

AZ Central: Arizona revises its standards on pandemic ‘medical rationing’ after federal complaint

Associated Press: Arizona revises health standards around ‘medical rationing’

The Center for Public Integrity: Once Again, Some States are Choosing who Gets COVID-19 Care

Washington Post: MedStar Agrees to Deal in Federal Discrimination Case

Public Charge Amicus Briefs

States: California, Washington, New York, Illinois

Filed: 2019

Courts: Northern District of California, Southern District of New York, Eastern District of Washington, Northern District of Illinois

Overview: A coalition of national disability advocacy groups filed four amicus briefs in support of litigation to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing its new “public charge” rule. Twenty-one states–led by California, Washington, and New York–as well as Cook County, Illinois, have filed cases against the Trump Administration to block the new rule. The advocacy groups – representing tens of thousands of people with disabilities and their families across the country – claim that the new public charge rule will prevent people with disabilities from entering this country or becoming legal residents in violation of federal disability law.

Case Documents

California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (District Court)
New York v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (District Court) 
Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (District Court)
Cook County, Illinois v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (District Court)
California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Ninth Circuit)
New York v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Second Circuit)
Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Ninth Circuit)
Cook County, Illinois v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Seventh Circuit)


California v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Cook County, IL v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

New York v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Related Media

Press Release: The Arc Applauds Federal Injunctions Against Public Charge Rule

Press Release: Disability Advocacy Groups File Amicus Brief Opposing the Administration’s Public Charge Rule as Illegal Disability Discrimination

Press Release: Supreme Court Lifts Stay on Public Charge Rule: Implementation Will Have Chilling Impact on People with Disabilities

The Hill: Disability rights groups join challenge to ‘public charge’ rule