Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs and activities. Section 1557(c) of the Affordable Care Act authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (Department) to promulgate regulations to implement the nondiscrimination requirements in Section 1557. This notice is a request for information (RFI) to inform the Department’s rulemaking for Section 1557. This RFI seeks information on a variety of issues to better understand individuals’ experiences with discrimination in health programs or activities and covered entities’ experiences in complying with Federal civil rights laws. Comments are due September 30, 2013 and may be submitted electronically, by fax, or by mail.
HHS is seeking specific information on the following questions:
1. The Department is interested in experiences with, and examples of, discrimination in health programs and activities. Please describe experiences that you have had, or examples of which you are aware, with respect to the following types of discrimination in health programs and activities: (a) Race, color, or national origin discrimination; (b) Sex discrimination (including discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sex stereotyping, or pregnancy); (c) Disability discrimination; (d) Age discrimination; or (e) discrimination on one or more bases, where those bases intersect.
2. There are different types of health programs and activities. These include health insurance coverage, medical care in a physician’s office or hospital, or home health care, for example. What are examples of the types of programs and activities that should be considered health programs or activities under Section 1557 and why?
3. What are the impacts of discrimination? What studies or other evidence documents the costs of discrimination and/or the benefits of equal access to health programs and activities for various populations? For example, what information is available regarding possible consequences of unequal access to health programs and services, such as delays in diagnosis or treatment, or receipt of an incorrect diagnosis or treatment? We are particularly interested in information relevant to areas in which Section 1557 confers new jurisdiction.
4. In the interest of ensuring access to health programs and activities for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP):
(a) What are examples of recommended or best practice standards for the following topics: (1) Translation services, including thresholds for the translation of documents into non- English languages and the determination of the service area relevant for the application of the thresholds; (2) oral interpretation services, including in-person and telephonic communications, as well as interpretation services provided via telemedicine or telehealth communications; and (3) competence (including certification and skill levels) of oral interpretation and written translation providers and bilingual staff?
(b) What are examples of effective and cost-efficient practices for providing language assistance services, including translation, oral interpretation, and taglines? What cost-benefit data are available on providing language assistance services?
(c) What are the experiences of individuals seeking access to, or participating in, health programs and activities who have LEP, especially persons who speak less common non- English languages, including languages spoken or understood by American Indians or Alaska Natives?
(d) What are the experiences of covered entities in providing language assistance services with respect to: (1) Costs of services, (2) cost management, budgeting and planning, (3) current state of language assistance services technology, (4) providing services for individuals who speak less common non-English languages, and (5) barriers covered entities may face based on their types or sizes?
(e) What experiences have you had developing a language access plan? What are the benefits or burdens of developing such a plan?
(f) What documents used in health programs and activities are particularly important to provide in the primary language of an individual with LEP and why? What factors should we consider in determining whether a document should be translated? Are there common health care forms or health-related documents that lend themselves to shared translations?
5. Title IX, which is referenced in Section 1557, prohibits sex discrimination in federally assisted education programs and activities, with certain exceptions. Section 1557 prohibits sex discrimination in health programs and activities of covered entities. What unique issues, burdens, or barriers for individuals or covered entities should we consider and address in developing a regulation that applies a prohibition of sex discrimination in the context of health programs and activities? What exceptions, if any, should apply in the context of sex discrimination in health programs and activities? What are the implications and considerations for individuals and covered entities with respect to health programs and activities that serve individuals of only one sex? What other issues should be considered in this area?
6. The Department has been engaged in an unprecedented effort to expand access to information technology to improve health care and health coverage. As we consider Section 1557’s requirement for nondiscrimination in health programs and activities, what are the benefits and barriers encountered by people with disabilities in accessing electronic and information technology in health programs and activities? What are examples of innovative or effective and efficient methods of making electronic and information technology accessible? What specific standards, if any, should the Department consider applying as it considers access to electronic and information technology in these programs? What, if any, burden or barriers would be encountered by covered entities in implementing accessible electronic and information technology in areas such as web-based health coverage applications, electronic health records, pharmacy kiosks, and others? If specific accessibility standards were to be applied, should there be a phased-in implementation schedule, and if so, please describe it.