This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will issue a final rule that strips important protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and limits access to health care coverage. The Arc is deeply troubled that HHS has chosen to issue a final rule weakening the nondiscrimination protections in health care, particularly during an international public health crisis and at a crucial crossroads for civil rights in this country.
The ACA’s Section 1557 prohibits discrimination in health care programs based on race, color, national origin, language proficiency, sex, sex stereotypes, gender identity, age, or disability. The protections of Section 1557 have never been more important than they are now. This rule narrows the application of all of the protections under Sec. 1557 by exempting certain types of activities and insurance coverage from the rule as a whole. In addition to other troubling changes, the final 1557 rule also specifically dismantles protections for people with limited English proficiency and people seeking reproductive and sexual health care.
“We cannot tolerate a public policy that permits discrimination based on disability, ethnicity, race, sex, gender identity and expression and sexual orientation, or other protected status.
It is unconscionable that the Administration is rolling back protections of the ACA and access to coverage in the midst of a pandemic. People with disabilities are already fighting discrimination in the health care system and extreme disparity as a result of COVID-19. HHS is taking steps that will deepen discrimination and create greater obstacles for people in our society who are marginalized – and at a time of historical hardship. It is unacceptable,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “The Administration is once again attempting to destroy the promises of the ACA. We will continue our ongoing fight to defend it in the courts and through our advocacy on the ground.”