This is the sixth in a series of blog posts celebrating the benefits that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides to people with disabilities. For the full list of prior and upcoming blog posts, see Friday’s news item.
The ACA Prohibits against Discrimination in Health Programs
In the first half of this series of blog posts, we detailed the important changes that the ACA made related to how insurance companies treat people with disabilities and other chronic conditions. These reforms included the prohibition against denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, guaranteeing renewability of coverage, prohibiting individual underwriting, coverage of essential health benefits and prohibiting monetary caps. The important reform that today’s blog post addresses looks at the broader issue of disability discrimination as §1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination in health programs.
The nondiscrimination provision in the ACA (§1557) was an important step toward addressing one of the most entrenched areas of discrimination against people with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 went a long way towards eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, but they did not directly address healthcare and health insurance. In fact, healthcare was one of the few areas where disability discrimination had still not been addressed prior to the passage of the ACA, so there was a huge loophole as it related to disability discrimination and the healthcare industry.
Section 1557 of the ACA was an important step forward for the disability community as it applied existing disability nondiscrimination protections to the U.S. healthcare system in a broad, direct and detailed manner. In many ways, this makes the ACA and §1557 a civil rights law for people with disabilities as it outlaws disability discrimination in one of the final areas where it was still permitted. Individuals with disabilities need to know that they can participate in the health care world without any barriers as they do in all other areas of their lives such as employment, transportation, public services, voting and education.