Thursday, August 22, 2019

National Civil Rights Organization Opposes Efforts to Gut Civil Rights Protections Under the Affordable Care Act

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a comment opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed rule to limit civil rights protections in health care under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The proposed rule, which was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, seeks to undo policies that extended civil rights protections to the disabled, elderly, women, members of the LGBTQ community, and those who have had abortions. If implemented, the proposed rule would make it harder for aggrieved citizens, including racial and ethnic minorities, to bring civil lawsuits against health care entities that advance discriminatory practices and policies. It would also eliminate agency investigation of activities that have a discriminatory effect on the basis of sex.

“We cannot lose the progress gained under the prior Administration in our efforts to rid the healthcare system of discriminatory practices that impact vulnerable communities. We’ll use every tool in our arsenal to fight for the preservation of existing protections in the Affordable Care Act so that marginalized communities, including low-income communities of color, have equal access to affordable healthcare,” said Dariely Rodriguez, Director of the Economic Justice Project at The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

In its comment, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law highlighted the inherent inequities that would result from the proposed rule. Specifically, the Lawyers’ Committee noted that the proposed rule would allow only some members of protected classes to bring disparate impact claims, while prohibiting people of color and those discriminated against on the basis of sex from doing so. The comment also highlighted that the proposed rule interpreted certain provisions of Section 1557 in a way that renders it meaningless, in violation of clearly established rules of statutory interpretation.

If finalized, the proposed rule will eliminate critical tools for people of color, including those with intersectional identities (i.e., women of color and people of color with disabilities) who are especially vulnerable to discrimination in the healthcare system in direct contravention of the ACA’s clear intent of eliminating discrimination in health care. The Department is expected to issue its Final Rule in the coming months.

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