• Physicians Need to Consider Immediate Action to Comply with Section 1557 - New ACA Anti-discrimination and Effective Patient Communication Posting Requirements

Physicians Need to Consider Immediate Action to Comply with Section 1557 - New ACA Anti-discrimination and Effective Patient Communication Posting Requirements

Earlier this year, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adopted final Federal regulations concerning the anti-discrimination mandate of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1557 will require many medical practices that receive federal funding to post an anti-discrimination notice and provide information for effective communications as of October 16, 2016. 

Under Section 1557, individuals are protected from discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping. 

The Final Rule applies to those who provide or administer health-related services or insurance coverage and receive "federal financial assistance," which includes Medicare, Medicaid, meaningful use payments, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gain-sharing demonstration projects, and other federal funds. Every health care provider must determine whether this rule applies to its operations. 

Among the mandate, affected medical practices must conspicuously post notices containing the following information:

  • The medical practice does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
  • The availability of auxiliary aids and interpreter services to people with disabilities or limited English proficiency for purposes of effective communications.
  • The procedure for reporting a complaint.
  • Where to file a discrimination claim with the OCR.
  • Medical practices with 15 or more employees need to provide contact information for the employee responsible for coordinating Section 1557 compliance investigations within the medical group. 

Additionally, medical practices must post “taglines,” which are short statements indicating the availability of language-assistant services free of charge. Notices and taglines must also be posted on the medical practice’s website. 

Affected medical practices, regardless of the number of employees, must develop a written plan outlining the procedure that will ensure the adequate and timely provision of language-assistant services. In addition, medical practices with 15 or more employees need to designate a coordinator to handle Section 1557 complaints. Private medical practices, ambulatory surgery centers, and other providers that receive any federal funds should assess whether they need to become compliant with the October 16 deadline notice requirements.  Failure to act could expose health care providers to considerable penalties or legal sanctions. Complaints to OCR can result in investigations by HHS and the Department of Justice.

To assist with implementation, OCR has translated into 64 languages a sample notice and taglines for use by covered entities. In addition, OCR has published a summary of the rulefactsheets on key provisions and a list of frequently asked questions. 



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