HHS Office for Civil Rights Releases Bulletin on Prohibitions Against Discrimination

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Courtesy of Justice in Aging

Recently, disability rights advocates filed four complaints about discriminatory state protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic. In response late last week, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights issued “Civil Rights, HIPAA, and the Coronavirus Disease 2019,” a bulletin to guide states, hospitals, and providers in developing treatment rationing plans and administering care in the event of a shortage of medical equipment, hospital beds, or health care personnel. The bulletin advises “entities covered by civil rights authorities [to] keep in mind their obligations under laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and exercise of conscience and religion in HHS-funded programs.” It specifies providers’ and entities’ obligations to provide effective communication and qualified interpreters, make emergency-related messaging accessible, and “address[] the needs of individuals with disabilities.”