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OCR Reminds Us of the Importance of Protecting Patients with HIV from Discrimination

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced a successful corrective action and resolution for a complaint against a covered entity. According to OCR, the complaint alleged that Florida Orthopaedic unlawfully canceled surgery because of a patient's HIV positive status. After OCR informed Florida Orthopaedic of the complaint and that it would be investigating the allegations, Florida Orthopaedic banned the patient from the practice and cited the patient's complaint as a basis for doing so.

Here are some key takeaways for OCR's announcement:

  • Retaliation for filing complaints with OCR is prohibited by law.
  • Covered entities who receive Federal financial assistance through participation in Medicaid and Medicare are subject to the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (including HIV/AIDS) in health programs or activities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding, such as medical practices, nursing homes, and hospitals.

OCR secured the following corrective actions from Florida Orthopaedic, including:

  • Amending its nondiscrimination policies.
  • Revising its procedures for dismissing any patient from the practice.
  • Providing staff with multiple trainings on HIV, federal non-discrimination laws, grievance procedures, and the requirement to refrain from retaliatory actions.

Before Florida Orthopaedic completed its compliance activities, they provided the complainant with referrals to three orthopedic surgeons in the area to prevent further delays in the patient's health care.

"Patients with HIV have the right to nondiscriminatory health care which includes the right to file complaints with OCR without fear of unlawful retaliation," said OCR Director Roger Severino.

The OCR announcement concluded by saying this case is representative of their continuing compliance work and implementation of the National HIV/Aids Strategy and the Ending HIV Epidemic; A Plan for America initiative.

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