Clearing Up Confusion About the Affordable Care Act

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The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) issued a recent rule that implements Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rule went into effect July 18. This part of the ACA prohibits discrimination in healthcare on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identification and sex stereotyping. These prohibitions apply to any healthcare provider receiving certain funds through HHS, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Despite the rule’s good intentions to prohibit discrimination in healthcare, it has left some healthcare providers with many unanswered questions.

The ADA is working to set up a meeting with HHS OCR officials to clear up many of the new rule’s ambiguities. In the meantime, ADA President Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays and ADA Executive Director Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin sent a letter to OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels asking her to delay the enforcement date so dentists will have sufficient time to understand the requirements. The letter also requests additional relief for small businesses.

Take Action

The ADA office in Washington, D.C., is ramping up lobbying on this issue, both with HHS and on Capitol Hill. These efforts include:

  • developing and spearheading a coalition of like-minded healthcare organizations that are also concerned about the lack of information from OCR;
  • enlisting help from members of Congress who might contact OCR on the ADA’s behalf and ask the agency to expedite the handling of our request for clarification of the rule; and
  • asking members asking that they contact their members of Congress and ask them to urge OCR to act. That’s where you come in. Check out the ADA Engage Legislative Action Center or visit ADA.org/1557 to find out how you can help.