September 25, 2023

As we mark Black Historical past Month, we acknowledge the function of the HHS Workplace for Civil Rights (OCR), which has deep roots in imposing federal civil rights legal guidelines that guarantee nondiscrimination primarily based on race, shade, and nationwide origin.  Our workplace was created to desegregate hospitals shortly after the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and creation of the Medicare program.  Our work has remained vital all through the various modifications in our well being care system within the many years since then, together with the Reasonably priced Care Act and its central nondiscrimination provision often known as Part 1557.   

OCR’s work at the moment continues to help HHS’ core mission, to reinforce the well being and well-being of all Individuals, by offering entry to high quality well being care and human companies.  Variety, fairness, and nondiscrimination are hallmarks of the Biden-Harris Administration, and OCR is central within the Division’s efforts to advance racial fairness and promote higher well being entry and outcomes for folks of shade and different underserved teams.  This dedication is mirrored in our enforcement of federal civil rights and privateness legal guidelines to make sure HHS companies are freed from discrimination, bias, and limitations.   

A few of our current efforts embody:

Strengthening Nondiscrimination in Well being Care

Final yr, OCR issued a proposed rule revising Part 1557 of the Reasonably priced Care Act that features strong provisions to guard folks from discrimination and helps the Biden-Harris Administration’s precedence of advancing fairness and civil rights. Part 1557 prohibits discrimination on the idea of race, shade, nationwide origin, intercourse, or incapacity in sure well being packages or actions and is likely one of the authorities’s strongest instruments to make sure nondiscriminatory entry to well being care.

Eradicating Language Obstacles

As part of this Administration’s accessibility and inclusion efforts, and in response to President Biden’s Govt Orders and comparable obligations beneath the HHS Fairness Motion Plan, OCR is working to make sure that all folks have significant entry to well being and human companies packages and actions.  It’s significantly vital in well being care settings to make sure sufferers perceive data, significantly when English shouldn’t be their major language, as a result of miscommunication might result in misdiagnosis and improper or delayed medical therapy.

  • OCR is main the best way on HHS actions on this space and just lately relaunched the HHS Language Entry Steering Committee.
  • As a part of this effort, all HHS companies will reassess and replace their language entry plans to enhance and make sure the high quality and accuracy of language entry companies in HHS-funded well being and human companies packages and actions.

Selling Reproductive Well being Care

The day the Supreme Court docket’s Dobbs resolution overruling Roe v. Wade got here out, HHS launched, the place HHS Secretary Becerra laid out a transparent plan of motion for HHS. Recognizing the excessive maternal mortality fee of Black girls and the way the Dobbs resolution exacerbates these inequities and disparities, OCR issued a number of steerage paperwork in order that well being care suppliers perceive their obligations and sufferers perceive the protections of federal legal guidelines.

OCR can be actively convening conferences with stakeholders in response to EO 14079, Securing Entry to Reproductive and Different Healthcare Providers.

Making certain Vaccine Fairness

  • OCR just lately issued steerage to suppliers about their obligations beneath Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Part 1557 of the Reasonably priced Care Act to make sure non-discrimination on the idea of race, shade, and nationwide origin in administering COVID-19 vaccination packages.
  • The steerage makes clear that whether or not data is distributed by way of flyers, on-line data portals, or in individual at vaccine distribution websites, federally funded entities are beneath a authorized obligation that COVID-19 vaccination packages be accessible and freed from discriminatory limitations that restrict a neighborhood’s means to obtain vaccinations, together with boosters.

Making certain Equal Entry to Telehealth

  • OCR with the Division of Justice Civil Rights Division issued steerage on nondiscrimination on the idea of race, shade, nationwide origin, and incapacity in accessing telehealth.
  • The steerage explains authorized obligations beneath Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Part 1557 of the Reasonably priced Care Act, Part 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act.
  • It supplies data to well being care suppliers about their nondiscrimination obligations and sensible recommendations on present accessible telehealth.

Strengthening the Well being Care Workforce to Meet America’s Numerous Wants

  • Every summer time, OCR continues a long-standing collaboration with the Affiliation of American Medical Schools to ship civil rights compliance coaching to pre-medical and pre-dental faculty college students.
  • From June to August, OCR employees members ship coaching to roughly 1,000 college students at faculties and universities throughout the nation, together with traditionally Black establishments, Howard College, and Charles R. Drew College of Medication and Science.

Please go to OCR’s web site for extra details about our actions or to seek out out about submitting a criticism.

Melanie Fontes Rainer