NYSDA Publications

OCR Takes Action Against FQHC for Hearing Impairment Discrimination

Per the notice below, the United States Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has taken action against a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for discriminating against a hearing impaired person.

Office for Civil Rights Settles Complaint with Florida Health Center that Failed to Provide Effective Communication for a Patient’s Caregiver

Resolution agreement requires the Federally Qualified Health Center to fully comply with the non-discrimination requirements of federal civil rights laws

The U.S. Office for Civil Rights (OCR), entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with MCR Health, Inc., to resolve a disability discrimination complaint based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The resolution resolves a complaint filed by an individual who is deaf and hard of hearing, alleging that MCR Health failed to provide her with auxiliary aids and services when she requested an interpreter be present for her while she attended her husband’s post-surgical medical appointment, as his companion.  MCR Health operates as a Federally Qualified Health Center throughout Florida.  OCR enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, two federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in programs receiving Federal financial assistance.

“Ensuring patient safety is at the heart of providing care in a quality and ethical manner.  It should not take a federal investigation for a health care provider to provide an interpreter so that a patient’s caregiver can understand important information, such as a post treatment plan,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer.  “We are seeing case after case involving health care providers who fail in their responsibility under federal civil rights laws to provide effective communication to patients and their caregivers.  This action supports OCR’s efforts to promote community integration by removing barriers to receiving services in the community.  OCR will continue to take robust enforcement action until we make it clear that health care providers must remove unnecessary barriers and provide equal treatment for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Collectively, Section 504 and Section 1557 prohibit any entity that receives Federal financial assistance from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities and requires an entity to take steps to ensure communication with individuals with disabilities is as effective as communication with others through the use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services.  As a result of the investigation, MCR Health voluntarily entered this Agreement and affirmed its compliance with Section 504 and Section 1557.  MCR Health agreed to take steps to ensure the availability of auxiliary aids and services to patients, companions, and members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing, including:

  • Furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure that communications with patients, companions, and members of the public who are deaf or hard of hearing are as effective as communications with others;
  • Review its policy and any related procedures and provide to OCR any revisions necessary to implement the terms of this agreement and to ensure it is taking any necessary steps to provide effective communication with patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing;
  • Give primary consideration to the request of a patient or companion who is deaf or hard of hearing;
  • Document any assessments conducted for auxiliary aids and services in a patient’s record;
  • Create an auxiliary aid and service denial log; and
  • Train to all staff regarding the requirement to ensure effective communication with patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing, are blind or have low vision, or have a speech disability.

The Voluntary Resolution Agreement may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/compliance-enforcement/agreements/vra-mcr-health-inc/index.html.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in programs or activities that the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) directly operates or to which HHS provides federal financial assistance, you may file a complaint for yourself or someone else at:  https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/filing-a-complaint/index.html.