Advocacy Updates: 9/14/23


September 15, 2023 | by Emma Olson

Historic Opportunities to Change Disability Discrimination in Healthcare and Human Services

September is a very busy month for advocates, so please be sure to read all the announcements so you don’t miss out!

Today, we have two important federal disability advocacy updates to share with you.

Historic Opportunity on Disability Discrimination in Healthcare and Human Services:

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new proposed rule to update Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 directs that no program that receives federal funding can discriminate against people with disabilities. As we know though, there is still a lot of disability discrimination out there in programs that receive federal funding to provide healthcare and human services. So HHS is using its power to propose a new rule that will make Section 504 stronger. This is one of the single most historic policy opportunities in recent decades, because it will be one of the biggest steps to real health equity for people with disabilities. This proposed rule would include things like:

  • Forbid making healthcare decisions based on disability stereotypes
  • Protect parents with disabilities in the foster care system, so families can stay together
  • Prohibit the child welfare system from placing kids with disabilities in restrictive settings
  • Prohibit organ transplant discrimination on the basis of disability
  • Establishes standards for accessible diagnostic equipment
  • Prohibits the use of value of life assessments in making treatment decisions
  • Hospitals can’t send you to a nursing home as a matter of course
  • Prohibits discriminatory crisis standards of care

(Thanks to the American Association of People with Disabilities for these plain language bullet points) You can check out this proposed rule to fight disability discrimination in healthcare and human services at this link. The link also has instructions for public comment. The public has 60 days from today to comment, so the deadline is November 13.

Federal Rulemaking for Adult Protective Services (APS):

For the first time ever, HHS is also offering a proposed rule for APS services nationwide, to improve the consistency of APS services in every state. Among other parts of the new proposed rule, state APS systems would be required to develop policies and procedures, consistent with state law, for coordination and sharing of information to facilitate investigations with other entities, such as state long-term care ombudsman, law enforcement agencies, and state Medicaid agencies. The proposed rule would also require that state policies and procedures to be person-directed and based on concepts of least restrictive alternatives. There will be a webinar on Monday, September 19, to go over the proposed APS rule. The proposed APS rule and public comment process can be viewed at this link. Public comment will close on November 11. This is an incredibly important opportunity to improve the APS system.

Please share these public comment opportunities with fellow disability advocates and allies. These rules will only be made stronger if everyone’s voice is heard. Let’s make history!