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Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Section 1557 is the civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act.  Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the ground of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability under “any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving Federal financial assistance … or under any program or activity that is administered by an Executive agency or any entity established under [Title I of ACA]….”   Section 1557 is the first Federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in health care.  To ensure equal access to health care, Section 1557 also applies civil rights protections to the newly created Health Insurance Marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1557 is consistent with and promotes several of the Administration’s key initiatives that advance prevention and wellness, reduce health disparities, and improve access to health care services.   The Office for Civil Rights in HHS is  responsible for enforcing Section 1557 with respect to covered programs.   The law was effective upon enactment and OCR has been accepting and investigating complaints under this authority.   If you believe you have been discriminated against on one of the bases protected by Section 1557, you may file a complaint with OCR. OCR also addresses Section 1557 in conducting outreach and providing technical assistance to covered entities and consumers.