For Providers of Health Care and Social Services

Laws and Regulations that OCR enforces that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability

How do I know if I am a Covered Entity under these laws?

If the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides Federal financial assistance directly or through another covered entity in the form of payment for specified use, a grant, or direct loan to you, for a program for the provision of services or benefits to individuals, you are considered as a covered entity. A sub-grantee that provide services for a covered entity also is a covered entity and must comply with OCR’s civil rights requirements. 

OCR also enforces Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits public entities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities regardless of whether the entity receives Federal financial assistance.  OCR enforces Title II as it applies to the provision of healthcare and social services by state and local government entities.  

If you receive some type of federal financial assistance from another Federal department or agency but do not receive any HHS assistance, you are not a covered entity under OCR’s jurisdiction. You may also not be such a covered entity if you are a health care professional who accepts only Medicare Part B insurance payment. You may be subject to nondiscrimination laws enforced by another Federal Civil Rights enforcement agency (FRCA).  

You may also want to review  OCR’s Compliance and Enforcement page and the  Regulations and Nondiscrimination Laws Enforced by OCR

OCR Resources to Assist State and Local Agencies in Complying with Civil Rights Laws:

  • Hospitals and Effective Communication – to assist state hospitals and other health care providers meet the communication needs of persons who have limited English proficiency and as well as persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • Adoption/Foster Care –  to assist adoption and foster care agencies in complying with regulations that prohibit  discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in adoption or foster care placement.
  • Limited English Proficiency (LEP) – to ensure effective linguistic services and programs for persons who have limited English proficiency (includes published guidance)
  • National Origin Discrimination – to assist agencies benefit applications and other administrative procedures do not deter or deny eligible national origin groups from obtaining services
  • Olmstead and New Freedom Initiative – to assist providers in serving persons with disabilities in the most integrated setting 
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - to assist providers to make available their programs and services without regard to a person’s race, color, national origin, disability, sex, age, religion or political belief.
  • Medicare Provider Certification – Medicare Certification Civil Rights Information Forms and Technical Assistance

HHS and DOJ Guidance on Long COVID as a Disability

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice jointly published a guidance document on “long COVID” as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. The guidance, released as we commemorate the 31st anniversary of the ADA, provides additional clarity on how these disability nondiscrimination laws apply to people who may be newly covered under these laws because of the impact of the COVID-19 infection on their bodies and their lives. The document discusses when long COVID may be considered a disability under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557, and shares examples along with related resources that may be helpful.

HHS, DOJ, and DOE Guidance on Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and the Department of Education sent a joint letter to the nation’s medical schools, dental schools, nursing schools, and other health-related schools regarding hepatitis B discrimination. Citing March 2013 settlement agreements that the Justice Department reached with a medical school and a school of osteopathic medicine resolving allegations that the schools violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by excluding previously-accepted applicants with hepatitis B from their programs (read our related blog post), the Departments express concern that some health-related schools may be making enrollment decisions based on an incorrect understanding of the hepatitis B virus, resulting in unlawful discrimination. The joint letter reminds the schools about the Updated Recommendations for the Management of Hepatitis B Virus–Infected Health-Care Providers and Students published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a July 2012 MMWR. The letter emphasizes the importance of the CDC’s recommendations, especially as they relate to the schools’ obligation to comply with federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, and national origin.

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on July 26, 2021