HHS Takes Next Step In Advancing Health Equity Through ACA
Posted on Friday, September 4, 2015 9:17 AMThe Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule to advance health equity and reduce disparities in health care. The proposed rule implements new protections against sex discrimination; enhances language assistance; protects individuals with disabilities; and extends to insurers participating in Health Insurance Marketplaces. The proposed rule applies to Health Insurance Marketplaces, any health program that HHS administers, and any health program or activity, any part of which receives funding from HHS, such as hospitals that accept Medicare patients an or doctors who treat Medicaid patients. The proposed rule also extends these nondiscrimination protections to individuals enrolled in plans, offered by issuers participating in the Health Insurance Marketplaces and explicitly bars any marketing practices or benefit designs that discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The proposed rule includes a number of new protections. Among them:
- Women must be treated equally with men in the health care they receive. Other provisions of the ACA bar certain types of sex discrimination in insurance, for example by prohibiting women from being charged more than men for coverage. Under Section 1557, women are protected from discrimination not only in the health coverage they obtain but in the health services they seek from providers.
- Individuals may not be subject to discrimination based on gender identity. For example, some insurance policies have historically contained categorical exclusions on coverage of all care related to gender transition. Those categorical exclusions are prohibited under the proposed rule. Individuals must also be treated consistent with their gender identity, including in access to facilities.
- The rule bolsters language assistance for people with limited English proficiency, so that individuals are able to communicate more effectively with their health care providers to, for example, describe their symptoms and understand the treatment they have been prescribed. The proposed rule provides clear guidance on the requirements of the law with regard to provision of language services, such as oral interpreters and written translations.
- For individuals with disabilities, the rule contains requirements for the provision of auxiliary aids and services, including alternative formats and sign language interpreters, and the accessibility of programs offered through electronic and information technology.
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