Section 1557 Covered Entities and Employer Sponsored Health Plans
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits “covered entities” discrimination in health programs that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Human and Health Services. Regulations were issued in 2016 that define the details of compliance with Section 1557 which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, disability and sex. (including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity and sex stereotyping). The stated purpose for the rules is to expand access and eliminate barriers to the ability to obtain health care coverage.
The definition of “covered entities” to which Section 1557 apply is extremely broad. Through the broad definition, the requirements of Section 1557 apply to any health program or activity that received federal financial assistance through the Department of Health and Human Service. This definition includes most health care providers, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and physician, who receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, insurance marketplace and exchanges and participating health plans.
The Section 1557 rules extend to some (but not all) employers that are group health plan sponsors. Determining whether Section 1557 applies to a specific employer can be quite complicated and is based on several factors such as the sponsor’s primary business function, the nature and extent of federal financial assistance, whether the employer plan is self-funded or insured, and variety of other factors.
Failing to comply with Section 1557, where necessary, can expose an employer to significant risk. Significant compliance exposure, coupled with complicated rules defining application of Section 1557, make this an extremely important area for employers. Employers should carefully assess whether they are subject to the requirements of Section 1557 and take steps to assure compliance where necessary.
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Source: Health Law Blog