House Chairs Write in Strong Support of the Biden Administration’s Health Nondiscrimination Rule
Proposed Rule Seeks to Ensure that Individuals’ Civil Rights are Protected While Receiving Health Care Services
WASHINGTON – Today, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) wrote to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in support of the Biden Administration’s proposed health care nondiscrimination rule.
“The proposed rule reflects evolving judicial precedent, technological developments affecting patient access to care, and is particularly imperative given the continually growing threats to reproductive health and LGBTQI+ health,” Scott, Pallone, and Neal wrote. “We strongly support the proposed rule and urge HHS to swiftly finalize the rule following the public comment period.”
The Biden Administration’s proposed rule entitled Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities effectuates Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to ensure that individuals’ civil rights are protected while receiving health care services. The proposed rule rectifies key gaps in prior iterations of the rule that were inconsistent with the ACA’s statutory mandate and undermined the purpose of the law.
The proposed rule will protect individuals against health care discrimination in a variety of ways, including:
- Clarifying that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;
- Ensuring that Section 1557’s nondiscrimination requirements apply to most health insurance plans, including those previously exempted by the Trump Administration, which left many consumers without fundamental protections;
- Establishing guardrails for the use of race- and ethnicity-based inputs to medical algorithms, which, when used improperly, have resulted in discrimination against people of color;
- Creating standards that seek to create equity in the quality of care for all patients, including those with disabilities who often experience stigma, bias, and discrimination in the health care system; and
- Protecting individuals with limited English proficiency from discrimination.
HHS also sought input on ways to further prohibit discrimination and protect vulnerable populations. The three Chairmen urge such action, supporting steps that would:
- Explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or related conditions—including termination of pregnancy—as a form of sex-based discrimination; and
- Encourage data collection on care provided to protected populations to ensure compliance with Section 1557 and effective care.
“Over the past decade, the ACA has enabled the historic expansion of access to both health care coverage and health care services for tens of millions of individuals. For too many individuals, however, including those who face intersectional discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and/or race and ethnicity, among other factors, discrimination remains a key barrier to health care access,” the Committee leaders concluded. “The implementation of this final rule is imperative to addressing these barriers and fulfilling the statutory text and commitment of the ACA. We urge HHS to finalize the proposed rule to strengthen access to health care services and fundamental civil rights protections afforded by this historic law.”
Read the full letter HERE.
Contact: Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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