HHS Rule Will Encourage Discrimination Against Medical Patients

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HHS’ Denial of Care Rule issued today empowers healthcare workers to withhold medical care from patients based on personal beliefs
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(PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a Denial of Care Rule that will empower healthcare workers to turn a patient away for any moral or religious reasons. There are no limits on what constitutes a religious or moral denial, and it does not need to be a doctor who objects—it could be a hospital receptionist or an orderly booking an operating room.  

The Rule does not contain any provisions to ensure that patients who are rejected are referred elsewhere or offered other care options. The Rule will create confusion and invite employees to turn away patients without telling them that they’ve been denied complete care or why.  The Rule completely fails to address how it can be practically implemented, including in emergency situations. All facilities receiving funds through HHS must comply, including hospitals, urgent-care facilities, abortion clinics, and LGBTQ health centers.  Under the Denial of Care Rule, facilities will be incentivized to cease offering contraception, abortion and LGBTQ-focused care for fear of losing funding. The Rule also threatens the ability of clinics and other smaller providers to stay open.   

Statement from Susan Inman, Chief Counsel for Federal Policy and Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights: 

“With this confusing and unworkable rule, the Trump Administration is recklessly and callously restricting access to health care. The Administration has repurposed the Office for Civil Rights – an office that has historically protected a patient’s right to receive care – into an instrument for driving abortion, contraception, and LGBTQ health care out of reach for all individuals. This rule is deliberately designed to intimidate and coerce health care providers into denying care for fear of exposing themselves to unbridled and unwarranted investigations and total loss of federal funding.    

For decades, there have been well-oiled systems in place to make sure medical professionals can opt out of procedures that go against their beliefs. These systems respect religious liberty and make sure patients get the care they need. This new policy leaves zero safeguards for the patient.” 

The Denial of Care Rule was issued by HHS’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which created a new internal division last year dedicated exclusively to enforcing denial of care laws. The Rule will go into effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.