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Health Care Discrimination

Healthcare discrimination is negative action towards, or lack of consideration of, a person or group in a protected category. Federal laws protect people from many forms of healthcare discrimination. For example, suppose you qualify for federal health insurance programs like Medicare or Medicaid. In that case, you can't be discriminated against based on gender, race, or national origin.

These protections extend to facilities providing services under government health and social services programs. This includes extended care facilities and hospitals. The protections also influence who insurance companies decide to cover.

This article provides a general overview of healthcare discrimination, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Age and gender discrimination in health care are also discussed. Links to numerous articles are included as well.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Overview

Discriminatory practices in certain health care services on the basis of race, color, or national origin are prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unlike other civil rights laws, Title VI doesn't address discrimination on the basis of sex or on the basis of disability.

As with other federal anti-discrimination laws, Title VI applies to healthcare programs receiving funding from the federal government. That includes Medicare and Medicaid. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) ensures equal access and enforces this civil rights law. The OCR is within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a federal agency with headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Other types of services that may be affected by the law include:

  • Nursing homes
  • Adoption agencies
  • Daycare centers
  • Family health centers
  • Substance abuse treatment centers

Title VI makes it illegal to take any of the following actions in a discriminatory manner:

  • Denying services or other benefits (including financial aid) otherwise provided by a public health care program
  • Providing a service or benefit that is inconsistent with what is offered to others in the program
  • Segregating patients with respect to services, financial aid, or other benefits

Age Discrimination and Health Care

The Age Discrimination Act (ADA) of 1975 prohibits age discrimination by health care providers receiving federal financial assistance from the DHHS. It also prohibits discrimination by:

  • Employers
  • Places of public accommodation
  • State and local governments

Unlike the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which applies to those 40 and older, the ADA covers people of all ages. For example, an otherwise prime candidate for an organ transplant can't be denied a transplant solely due to advanced age.

There are some instances where the ADA does not apply. This is the case when another federal, state, or local law:

  • Provides specific benefits to people based on their age
  • Creates age-related criteria for participation in a given program
  • Uses age-related terms to describe intended beneficiaries of a treatment or procedure
  • Complaints for violations of the ADA are filed with the U.S. Department of Justice

Gender Discrimination and Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act prohibits health insurers from charging different rates based on gender (or health status) for plans sold after 2014. For instance, two otherwise comparable health insurance beneficiaries must be charged roughly the same. This is the case even if one of them is a woman requiring regular gynecological or reproductive health services. Similarly, women of childbearing age can't be charged more because they might get pregnant.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is another federal law offering discrimination protection. It prohibits discrimination based on disability. It applies to entities receiving federal funding.

Section 504 prohibits covered entities from excluding or denying people with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program services and benefits.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand non-discrimination and health laws. Health care is a human right. Discrimination against minorities negatively impacts health outcomes. Protect your mental health and well-being. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help. Health equity is achieved when things like gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or LGBTQ+ status don't predict health outcomes. Equitable access is essential for health equity.

Learn About Health Care Discrimination

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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