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Section 1557: Protecting Individuals Against Sex Discrimination

Section 1557 is the civil rights provision of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs and activities. The Section 1557 final rule applies to any health program or activity, any part of which receives funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), such as hospitals that accept Medicare or doctors who receive Medicaid payments; the Health Insurance Marketplaces and issuers that participate in those Marketplaces; and any health program that HHS itself administers.

The rule makes clear that sex discrimination prohibited under Section 1557 includes discrimination based on:

  • An individual’s sex
  • Pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions
Protections against Sex Discrimination
  • Individuals cannot be denied health care or health coverage based on their sex.
  • Women must be treated equally with men in the health care they receive and the insurance they obtain.
  • Sex-specific health programs or activities are permissible only if the entity can demonstrate an exceedingly persuasive justification. For example, that the sex-specific health program or activity is substantially related to the achievement of an important health-related or scientific objective.

For more information about Section 1557, visit http://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/section-1557.

Update (Sept. 15, 2020)

On October 15, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued an order in Franciscan Alliance, Inc. v. Burwell, No. 7:16-cv-00108, which vacated portions of HHS’s 2016 rule implementing Section 1557.  The order and accompanying decision may be found here:

On August 17, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued an order in Asapansa-Johnson Walker v. Azar, No. 1:20-cv-02834, staying portions of the 2020 Final Rule’s repeal of portions of the 2016 rule and preliminarily enjoining HHS from enforcing the repeal of those provisions. The order may be found here:

On September 2, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order in Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS, No. 1:20-cv-01630, preliminarily enjoining HHS from enforcing portions of the 2020 Final Rule.  The order and accompanying decision may be found here:

* People using assistive technology may not be able to fully access information in these files. For assistance, contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights at (800) 368-1019, TDD toll-free: (800) 537-7697, or by emailing OCRMail@hhs.gov.

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on September 16, 2020