OCR News Releases & Bulletins
HHS Proposes to Revise ACA Section 1557 Rule to Enforce Civil Rights in Healthcare, Conform to Law, and Eliminate Billions in Unnecessary Costs
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed regulatory reform related to regulations issued under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed rule would maintain vigorous civil rights enforcement on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex, while revising certain provisions of the current Section 1557 rule that a federal court has said is likely unlawful. The proposal also would relieve the American people of approximately $3.6 billion in unnecessary regulatory costs over five years.
HHS Announces Final Conscience Rule Protecting Health Care Entities and Individuals - May 2, 2019
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today the issuance of the final conscience rule that protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs. Just as OCR enforces other civil rights, the rule implements full and robust enforcement of approximately 25 provisions passed by Congress protecting longstanding conscience rights in healthcare.
OCR Issues Notice of Resolution to the State of Hawaii After Hawaii Takes Action in Safeguarding Conscience Protections for Pregnancy Care Centers - March 22, 2019
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it issued a Notice of Resolution to the State of Hawaii after Hawaii took corrective action in response to OCR’s investigation of complaints of discrimination by the state against non-profit pregnancy resource centers. Complainants, Aloha Pregnancy Care and Counseling Center, Inc. and Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, filed a complaint with OCR alleging that Hawaii engaged in impermissible discrimination under one or more of federal conscience laws when Hawaii enacted the notice requirements of Act 200, a 2017 law which required them to disseminate a government-scripted notice that promotes abortion – a service for which they do not offer, counsel, recommend, or refer.
OCR Resolves Disability Complaint of Individual Who Was Denied the Opportunity for Heart Transplant List Placement - February 12, 2019
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it has successfully resolved a complaint against the University of North Carolina Health Care (UNC Health Care) system alleging that it unlawfully denied an individual the opportunity to be placed on the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) list on the basis of their disability. UNC Health Care is a public academic medical center comprised of North Carolina Memorial Hospital, North Carolina Children’s Hospital, North Carolina Neurosciences Hospital, and North Carolina Women’s Hospital.
OCR Concludes 2018 with All-Time Record Year for HIPAA Enforcement - February 7, 2019
Cottage Health Settles Potential Violations of HIPAA Rules for $3 Million - February 7, 2019
Today the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it found that the State of California violated the federal conscience protection laws known as the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments
New HHS Checklist Helps First Responders Ensure Language Access and Effective Communication During Emergencies - December 10, 2018
Recent natural disasters have demonstrated the importance of ensuring accessibility to health and human services for everyone living in the United States, including individuals who are limited English proficient or with disabilities in need of interpretation and translation services. HHS’ Office for Civil Rights led efforts by the HHS Language Access Steering Committee to develop a plain language checklist to help first responders provide services to individuals with limited English proficiency and individuals with disabilities during emergency response and recovery efforts, in accordance with federal civil rights laws. The checklist includes recommendations, specific action steps, and resources to assist first responders in providing on-the-ground language assistance and communicating effectively in disasters. Practical tips range from how to identify language needs in a disaster-impacted community to effectively utilizing interpreters.
OCR Releases “Here to Serve You” Educational Video in Spanish - November 1, 2018
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released an educational video in Spanish to raise awareness within the Hispanic community about the work of OCR.
La Oficina de Derechos Civiles (OCR) del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los Estados Unidos ha publicado un video educativo en español para informar la comunidad hispanohablante sobre el trabajo de la OCR y para destacar los derechos de conciencia y libertad religiosa protegidos por nuestra Constitución y leyes federales.
OCR Launches Public Education Campaign About Civil Rights Protections in Response to the National Opioid Crisis - October 25, 2018
Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a public education campaign on civil rights protections in response to the national opioid crisis. The materials inform the public about civil rights protections that may apply to a person in recovery from an opioid addiction and ensure that covered entities are aware of their obligation to comply with federal nondiscrimination laws.
A previous version of this release mistakenly identified the TV series as “Boston Med.” “Boston Med,” also an ABC television series, was not involved in this investigation
OCR Issues Guidance to Help Ensure Equal Access to Emergency Services and the Appropriate Sharing of Medical Information During Hurricane Florence
In preparation for Hurricane Florence, OCR has issued a press release providing resources and effective practices to help emergency responders and officials effectively serve at-risk populations and ensure that the whole community is included in emergency response and recovery efforts. OCR continues to coordinate with our sister agencies and federal partners to make sure that responsible officials are mindful of all segments of the community as they prepare for disaster response in the areas affected by Hurricane Florence.
- Read the HHS Press Release
- Visit the Civil Rights Emergency Preparedness Page
- Visit the HIPAA Emergency Preparedness Page
Consequences for HIPAA violations don’t stop when a business closes - February 13, 2018
HHS Takes Major Actions to Protect Conscience Rights and Life - January 19, 2018
HHS Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division - January 18, 2018
- Read HHS Press Release
- Videos of HHS New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division Announcement: Facebook Live; YouTube
The HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Administration for Community Living (ACL), and OCR, have jointly publish a report entitled “Ensuring Beneficiary Health and Safety in Group Homes Through State Implementation of Comprehensive Compliance Oversight” – January 17, 2018
Failure to protect the health records of millions of people costs entity millions of dollars - December 28, 2017
OCR works with DOJ to ensure federally funded medical center provides communication services for deaf and hard of hearing patients - December 20, 2017
HHS Office for Civil Rights Issues Guidance on how HIPAA Allows Information Sharing to Address the Opioid Crisis - October 27, 2017
OCR Addresses National Origin Discrimination in Alabama Child Welfare Programs - October 25, 2017
HHS Office for Civil Rights Enters into Agreement with Oklahoma Nursing Home to Protect Patients with HIV/AIDS from Discrimination - September 08, 2017
No Business Associate Agreement? $31K Mistake - April 20, 2017
Overlooking risks leads to breach, $400,000 settlement - April 12, 2017
$5.5 million HIPAA settlement shines light on the importance of audit controls - February 16, 2017
Lack of timely action risks security and costs money - February 1, 2017
OCR signs Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with DOJ, EEOC and OPM -
OCR and DOJ FCS entered into a MOU to promote interagency coordination and to ensure consistent enforcement of nondiscrimination laws in the child welfare system. This agreement allows for sharing of information, refer matters to each other, and coordinate investigations as appropriate.
OCR and EEOC entered in MOU to promote interagency coordination and to ensure consistent enforcement of nondiscrimination laws with respect to certain employment discrimination complaints. This agreement allows for sharing of information, refer matters to each other, and coordinate investigations as appropriate.
OCR and OPM entered into a MOU to promote interagency coordination and to ensure consistent enforcement of nondiscrimination laws with respect to certain complaints involving the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. This agreement allows for sharing of information, refer matters to each other, and coordinate investigations as appropriate.
Presence Health agrees to settlement of $475,000 in OCR's first HIPAA enforcement action for lack of timely breach notification - January 9, 2017
HHS OCR and the US Attorney’s Office of Connecticut Enter Agreement with UConn Health to Ensure Effective Communication - January 3, 2017
Erie County of New York State Enters Agreement with HHS OCR to Ensure Availability of Language Assistance Services for Individuals with LEP - December 22, 2016
Guidance for Ensuring Accessibility of Health Programs and Activities offered through Electronic Information Technology - December 21, 2016
UMass settles potential HIPAA violations following malware infection - November 22, 2016
OCR, Department of Justice and the Administration for Children and Families Release Title VI Joint Guidance Letter for Child Welfare Systems - October 19, 2016
OCR Releases New Guidance on HIPAA and Cloud Computing - October 6, 2016
OCR signs effective communication Dear Colleague Letter with the Health Resources and Services Administration (08/30/2016)
OCR issues report on its National HIV/AIDS Compliance Review Initiative - 07/13/2016
HHS Guidance and Resources for Long Term Care Facilities - June 23, 2016
OCR Launches Phase 2 of HIPAA Audit Program - March 21, 2016
Georgia Agrees to Ensure Equal Access for Individuals with Disabilities to Foster and Adoption Programs and Services - 1/11/16
OCR Launches Newly Redesigned Website - 01/06/16
Obama Administration Modifies HIPAA to Strengthen the Firearm Background Check System - 01/04/2016
OCR enters Agreement with Three Puerto Rico Hospitals to Ensure Access to Auxiliary Aids and Services - 10/26/15
OCR Issues Proposed Rule on Nondiscrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act
Note that the comment period ended at midnight on November 9, 2015. The NPRM is available for review at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=HHS-OCR-2015-0006
- Click here for a Summary
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- Click here for the Questions and Answers about the NPRM
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- Click here for the Press Release
- For documents in alternative formats, please call (800) 368-1019 or (800) 537-7697 (TDD)
HHS and DOJ Issue Disability Rights Technical Assistance on Child Welfare - 8/10/2015
Arizona Agrees to Improve Immigrant Access to Federal Public Benefits Programs - 07/16/15
Brooklyn Hospital Center Implements Non-Discriminatory Practices to Ensure Equal Care for Transgender Patients - 07/14/15
OCR signs Effective Communication Dear Colleague letter with Puerto Rico Hospital Association - 06/09/15
OCR and DOJ find discrimination against persons who are deaf and hard-of-hearing in Connecticut Hospital - 3/20/2015
Michigan Medical Care Facility Commits to Race Non-Discrimination in Staff Assignments - 02/13/2015
OCR and DOJ find disability discrimination in Mass. child welfare - 01/29/15