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ACA bars sex discrimination in health care

December 12, 2013

Washington—The U.S. Office for Civil Rights will investigate complaints and "vigorously enforce" new sex discrimination authority under the Affordable Care Act, the agency said. "OCR is also using its authority under health privacy laws to enhance civil rights protections in addressing sex discrimination issues that arise in covered health care programs or activities," said the Dec. 6 notice posted at the OCR website.

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity), disability or age in certain health programs and activities. It is the first federal civil rights law barring sex discrimination in covered health programs and activities.

The notice cites OCR investigations "to resolve two sex discrimination complaints" involving New Orleans and Jonesboro, Ark., health care facilities. One facility subsequently revised a protocol to provide gender-neutral procedures for reporting incidents involving domestic abuse and provided staff training and the other changed its billing practices to ensure equal treatment regardless of the sex of the patient.