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May 03, 2024

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Published a Rule Barring Disability Discrimination in Healthcare

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced an update to regulations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that will prohibit all programs and activities that receive funding from HHS from discriminating against people with disabilities by eliminating barriers to health care and social services.

Robert Dinerstein, Chair of the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, responded to the news: “In the history of the disability rights movement, the activism that led to the long-delayed issuance of the original Section 504 regulations in 1977 has an iconic status. Much has changed in the world since 1977, and the issuance of this Final Rule addresses a number of critical issues in health care and related areas that significantly affect people with disabilities. These updated regulations will go a long way toward addressing the ableism that remains in our health care system.”

Titled Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities (Section 504 Final Rule), the rule will bar providers from making treatment decisions based on negative biases or stereotypes about disability, including through the use of any value assessment methods, including those that place a lower value on lifeextension of people with disabilities. The rule also adopts U.S. Access Board’s standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment and requires providers have at least one accessible exam table and weight scale within two years. Additionally, health care and human service activities delivered through website and mobile applications must be accessible to and usable by disabled persons and comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. Also significant, the rule requires that services be provided in the most integrated setting possible, such as in one’s home where appropriate.

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