FAQs for Healthcare Providers During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency: Federal Civil Rights Protections for Individuals with Disabilities Under Section 504 and Section 1557

February 14, 2022

On February 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) posted FAQs designed to make clear that civil rights protections remain in full force and effect during disasters or emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. These laws include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557) which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

In a public health emergency, when resources can be scarce, individuals with disabilities may be subjected to stereotypes, bias, and other obstacles that may impede their access to healthcare. OCR’s guidance makes clear that that individuals with disabilities are not to be prevented from receiving needed healthcare or health services, and that such discrimination is a violation of Section 504 and Section 1557.