We’re often at our most vulnerable when we seek medical care. But for many patients, fear of being mistreated or turned away by a healthcare provider can act as a barrier to even getting through the door.
This fall, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed major changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act which prohibits discrimination in healthcare programs. Many of these protections were removed from federal law in 2020, particularly around the rights of LGBTQ+ people and those who can become pregnant. On Monday, October 3, 2022, Interfaith Alliance joined partners in the civil rights, LGBTQ+, healthcare, faith-based, and secular communities in praising the Biden administration for proposing the restoration of vital protections for patients and beneficiaries.
Since 2010, the Affordable Care Act has had a transformative impact on all aspects of healthcare, increasing the scope of benefits and improving access to coverage for millions of Americans. At the heart of the ACA is Section 1557, prohibiting hospitals, doctors, and insurers from discriminating against individuals seeking services or insurance coverage. It specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability by any programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
This critical mechanism ensures that all patients have meaningful access to healthcare, regardless of who they are. Yet under former President Trump, the Department of Health and Human Services pared down these protections and impaired access to critical services for communities who need them the most. The COVID-19 pandemic further strained our healthcare infrastructure and exposed the urgent need for meaningful engagement around health disparities and accessibility. The Biden Administration’s proposed rule comes not a moment too soon.
Interfaith Alliance commended HHS for clarifying protections against discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy status and establishing a clear process for providers seeking religious exemptions. We urge the department to make sure patients are informed of their rights under Section 1557, including any religious exemptions that a provider might receive and the services they do not provide.
Taken together, these changes can ensure that people of all faiths and none can access healthcare consistent with their own beliefs and needs. Read our full comments here.
Learn more about how Interfaith Alliance works to advance true religious freedom for all.