HHS Issues Rule to Protect Against Discrimination in Healthcare for Those with Disabilities

Becker’s Hospital Review calls attention to a rule finalized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that updates protections against disability discrimination in healthcare. Becker’s points to key things healthcare leaders should know:

  1. HHS says the rule, titled “Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities,” is designed to advance equity and increase protections for people with disabilities. It prohibits disability discrimination in programs and activities that receive funding from HHS.
  2. Under the rule, medical treatment decisions cannot be based on “negative biases or stereotypes” about individuals with disabilities. This would include judgments that an individual with a disability will be a burden on others, or a belief that the life of an individual with a disability has less value than the life of a person without a disability. Similarly, no health assessment tool can discount the value of a life extension or limit access to aid or service on the basis of a disability.
  3. The rule also includes stipulations regarding how medical equipment and websites and mobile applications are to be made accessible for those with disabilities. A fact sheet on the rule is available here.

KFF Health News had reported earlier in 2024 that about one-third of people age 65 and older — nearly 19 million Americans — have a disability, but most doctors are biased in assuming people with disabilities always have a lower quality of life. KFF added that as a result, disabled patients may be discriminated against in what types and amount of care they receive.

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