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Thursday, May 2, 2024

New Rule on Health Discrimination

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families
People with autism and other disabilities have faced discrimination in organ transplants.  During the pandemic, they faced discrimination in the availability of ventilators.  And along with other people with disabilities, they reportedly encounter discrimination in health care more generally.

From HHS:

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Office for Civil Rights (OCR), finalized a rule that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. This rule, titled Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Health and Human Service Programs or Activities, advances equity and bolsters protections for people with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). This important Final Rule is HHS’s latest action in furtherance of Executive Order 14091, entitled Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.

Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive funding from HHS. Since the law was enacted, major legislative and judicial developments have shifted the legal landscape of disability discrimination under Section 504.

HHS has updated the regulations to clarify obligations in several critical areas. Specifically, the rule:
  • Ensures that medical treatment decisions are not based on negative biases or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities, judgments that an individual with a disability will be a burden on others, or dehumanizing beliefs that the life of an individual with a disability has less value than the life of a person without a disability.
  • Prohibits the use of any measure, assessment, or tool that discounts the value of a life extension on the basis of disability to deny, limit, or otherwise condition access to an aid, benefit or service.
  • Defines what accessibility means for websites and mobile applications and sets forth a specific technical standard to ensure that health care and human service activities delivered through these platforms are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
  • Adopts the U.S. Access Board’s standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment, like exam tables and mammography machines.
  • Details requirements to ensure nondiscrimination in the services provided by HHS-funded child welfare agencies, including, but not limited to, reasonable efforts to prevent foster care placement, parent-child visitation, reunification services, child placement, parenting skills programs, and in- and out-of-home services.
  • Clarifies obligations to provide services in the most integrated setting, like receiving services in one's own home, appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Additionally, the Final Rule updates existing requirements to make them consistent with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), as many HHS recipients are also covered by the ADA this consistency will improve and simplify compliance.

This rule takes effect 60 days after publication. The current rule remains in effect until that time. If you believe that you or another party has been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability, visit the OCR complaint portal to file a complaint online at:

The final rule may be viewed or downloaded at:

A fact sheet on the rule is available here: