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Health Disparities

Nondiscriminatory Quality Healthcare Services

A diverse group of parents and childrenResearchers have found that some populations, including certain racial and ethnic groups, limited English proficient persons, people with disabilities, and the elderly, are disproportionately affected by barriers which prevent or decrease access to healthcare services.  In addition, there are measurable differences in the use of healthcare services and the quality of healthcare services received among various population groups. 

In an effort to ensure nondiscrimination and increase the number of individuals who have access to quality healthcare services, OCR investigates entities that receive funding from HHS to ensure they comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws. One of those laws, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects people of every race, color and national origin from unlawful discrimination. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. Through the effective enforcement of these Federal civil rights laws, OCR seeks to decrease healthcare disparities and ensure access to quality healthcare services.

Enforcement Success Stories

  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) (PA) - OCR Region III reached a voluntary resolution agreement with UPMC, prior to conducting a full-scale investigation.  The complaint alleged that UPMC violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when it closed one of its affiliated hospitals located in a small, predominately African American community near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  UPMC maintains that it closed the facility due to millions of dollars in financial losses as well as underutilization by the community.  In order to ensure that the hospital’s closure does not have a disparate impact on the predominantly minority community, UPMC agreed to subsidize expanded hours and services at a federally qualified health center; provide door to door transportation for residents to three outpatient facilities in a neighboring community; and provide door to door service to another UPMC affiliated hospital.  UPMC also agreed to conduct six health-screening programs throughout the year as well as a diabetes-screening program twice a year; designate an ombudsperson to help individuals navigate the UPMC health care system; and provide outreach to faith-based health ministries in the community. Read the Voluntary Compliance Agreement | Read the HHS Press Release(Spanish)

  • Maryvale Hospital (AZ) - OCR Region IX resolved a complaint alleging that Maryvale Hospital had violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by failing to provide language assistance services to limited English proficient (LEP) patients in its Emergency Department.  In response to OCR’s investigation and provision of technical assistance, the Hospital took corrective action to improve its language services program, including:  (1) revising its LEP policy to notify consumers that in-person, telephone and video interpretation services are available free of charge; (2) publishing the revised LEP policy on its website and in patient materials; (3) training staff on the revised LEP policy; (4) contracting with new interpretation service providers offering American Sign Language and sixty spoken languages; and (5) posting language interpretation information in the main lobby, admissions area, and Emergency Department.

OCR ensures that people have equal access to and an opportunity to receive services from all HHS funded programs. Persons who believe they (or someone else) have been discriminated against -- because of race, color, national origin, age, or disability -- in health care or human services may file a complaint with OCR.