WASHINGTON – The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) condemns the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed changes to the Health Care Rights Law (Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act). This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking threatens to allow health care entities to discriminate against patients by limiting who must comply with the law, how the law will be enforced and reversing protections on the basis of sex, sex stereotyping and gender identity. In addition, the rule narrowly limits protections for people who are not fluent in English by rolling back legal notice requirements.

“No person should be denied the ability to see a doctor or use their health insurance based on the language they speak, their sex, gender identity or color of their skin,” said Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO. “HHS’ proposal would bring back discrimination where it has no place in health care. This proposal threatens the safety and security of millions of families.”

The Health Care Rights Law is an important legal protection in health care for all Americans. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in any health program or activity receiving federal assistance, any program or activity administered by a federal agency and the health insurance Marketplaces.

The Health Care Rights Law was the first-time federal law prohibited sex discrimination in health care. The proposed rule would substantially lessen the impact of these protections by rolling back protections on the basis of sex, sex stereotyping and gender identity. Undoing protections against sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity and pregnancy termination would particularly harm women and LGBT individuals by interfering in their ability to access quality care.

The Health Care Rights Law builds on civil rights protections under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin, and includes language access. Ensuring language access touches the lives of millions of Americans, 25 million of whom are limited English proficient (LEP), meaning they speak very little English or none at all. Research has shown that language barriers negatively impact the quality of care and ability of a person to access care and maintain coverage and in some instances can lead to devastating consequences.

The proposal seeks to overall limit the scope of civil rights protections in health care by removing the requirement that entities post a notice of nondiscrimination and include in-language statements (known as taglines) in certain documents. These protections ensure LEP persons understand their rights and help break down language barriers to health. APIAHF is evaluating the impact of these changes as it creates potential for important legal notices about rights and responsibilities to be sent without taglines, putting LEP persons at risk.

APIAHF opposes the Administration’s plan and urges the public to voice their opposition by commenting on the proposed rule during the 60-day public comment period.