ASAN Applauds HHS Section 504 Final Rule

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Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced its final rule implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This is an important rule that we have been waiting for for a long time. This rulemaking is the first update to the regulations implementing Section 504 in 50 years, and is all the more important due to developments in health care and disability rights over the past five decades.

The federal rule out today does several things to further protect the lives, health and rights of people with disabilities. This rule:

  • Prohibits discrimination in medical treatment decisions based on negative stereotypes or beliefs about the value of the lives of people with disabilities. Medical providers cannot refuse to give treatment to people with disabilities because they believe we won’t have a good value of life or would be a burden to others. ASAN has previously talked about the problems these sorts of discrimination create for us when hospitals are relying on crisis standards of care or deciding who to give organ transplants to.
  • Prohibits any value measure that values life extension for a disabled person less than life extension for a nondisabled person. These value measures are often used to determine what drugs and treatments are available and which ones are considered cost-effective to give people. ASAN has also talked about this and how measurements like QALYs discriminate against disabled people.
  • Makes sure that websites and apps meet accessibility standards for people with disabilities, so that we can use these resources and services to address our health care needs.
  • Ensures that medical equipment, including exam tables and x-ray machines, are accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Makes sure that the child welfare system does not discriminate against children and parents with disabilities. This includes making sure that children are not removed from their families because of ableist stereotypes about disabled parents, and ensures that families with disabled individuals will have equal opportunities to preserve their families. The rule also cautions states about discriminating against disabled people who want to be kinship caregivers or foster parents.
  • Updates the rules for 504 to make it consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the Integration Mandate which says that all people with disabilities have a right to live, work, and receive services in the most integrated setting. This allows people to stay in their communities and avoid being institutionalized. 

This rule is very important for making sure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected in health care. People need to know about what this rule is and what it does – it’s important for all of us to know our rights under these rules, and also for doctors to know what they need to do to make sure our rights are protected.

The HHS final rule is a very important regulation interpreting Section 504, but it isn’t the only one!  As we mentioned yesterday, there are going to be more rules for Section 504, rules which will cover how the rights of people with disabilities should be protected in education and in housing.  We will let you know more about these rules and how you can get involved when they are released.