Multiple Republican lawmakers are opposing a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed rule that would expand the Affordable Care Act’s Section 1557 requirement preventing most health plans from discriminating on the basis of sex. According to this SHRM article, the rule applies to health insurers or plans that receive federal funds or that contract with the government. McDermott lawyers previously wrote about this proposed rule, noting that the definition of a covered entity is “similar in many ways to the 2016 Final Rule” but “does not explicitly include employee benefit group health plans as covered entities subject to Section 1557.”
“Because of Bostock” – Court Delays HHS Rule Re-interpreting Section 1557 Discrimination “Because of Sex”
One day before an updated rule of the US Department of Health and Human Services regarding Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took effect, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered a stay and issued a preliminary injunction precluding the most recent final rules from becoming operative. Entities subject to Section 1557 should — at least until decisions are issued in cases pending in US district courts — be cautious in their approach to their non-discrimination compliance obligations.
On June 12, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the 2020 Final Rule) that rescinds certain protections afforded to LGBTQ individuals and persons with limited English proficiency. At the same time, the 2020 Final Rule removes burdensome disclosure requirements that may be a welcome relief for entities covered by Section 1557. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation is forbidden under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although Title VII is not included in the precedential civil rights laws that gave rise to Section 1557, we nevertheless anticipate that the Supreme Court’s holding will lead to legal challenges in a number of areas, including healthcare and health insurance, religious exemptions and the 2020 Final Rule from HHS OCR.
Two pending federal cases could reveal situations in which employers with a significant multi-lingual workforce should provide translated versions of their COBRA election materials.
On Friday, May 13, 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights finalized regulations that provide explicit protections from discrimination on the basis of gender identity in health care and insurance under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.