By Margaret Young Levi and Kathie McDonald-McClure
Among the many mandates of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (a/k/a “Obama Care”) still in force today is Section 1557. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the agency vested with responsibility for implementing and enforcing Section 1557. On May 16, 2016, OCR issued a Final Rule that requires entities covered by the ACA to notify beneficiaries, enrollees, applicants, or members of the public of Section 1557’s nondiscrimination prohibitions. This notice must be included in the entity’s “significant” publications and communications.
You might ask, “Why am I reading about this on a legal blog about privacy and security?” This is because OCR determined that the Notice of Privacy Practices, which healthcare providers and health plans issue to patients and plan members, is a “significant” publication or communication. As a result, health care providers and health plans that are subject to both Section 1557 and the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) must add the Section 1557 nondiscrimination notices and taglines to their Notice of Privacy Practices. Health plans should add such notices and taglines to their Summary of Benefits and Coverage as well.