Resources for July 18 civil rights rule deadline

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights issued a final rule recently that seeks to improve patient access to quality, affordable health care by prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability; enhancing language assistance for individuals with limited English proficiency; and protecting individuals with disabilities. The rule, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, is applicable to all health care entities, including dentists, who receive HHS financial assistance in the form of Medicaid reimbursement or HHS Meaningful Use grant funds.

Dentists participating as providers in the Denti-Cal and CHIP (formerly known as Healthy Families) programs and those provider entities who have received Meaningful Use funding from HHS are required to comply with the new rule. All but three elements of the rule are effective July 18.

The required elements for July 18 compliance include:

  • Providing meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency by identifying "qualified" interpreters or translators (whether in-person or via a video remote interpreting services).
  • Ensuring effective communications to individuals with disabilities by making online appointment systems or online billing more accessible.  
  • Verifying that dental practices that offer employee health plans are in compliance with the Section 1557 prohibition on discrimination.
  • Complying with 2010 standards of Section 1557 for dental facility alterations or new construction.

Required elements for Oct. 16 compliance include:

  • Posting a Notice of Nondiscrimination in English in dental practices, on websites and in significant publications or communications.
  • Posting taglines in the top 15 non-English languages spoken in California offering free language assistance in dental practices, on websites and in significant publications or communications.
  • For offices with 15 or more employees, posting information regarding the dental practice's grievance procedure.

CDA is currently developing California-specific resources, including required notices for Oct. 16 compliance. The ADA has developed Section 1557 resources, including a checklist, Q&A and sample documents for dental practices, which can be found at success.ada.org (ADA-member login is required).

CDA will provide more information regarding the rule and available member resources in the CDA Update, e-newsletter and on cda.org.

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In May, several thousand HIPAA-covered entities received emails from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) as the agency rolled out Phase 2 of its HIPAA Audit Program. One email asked covered entities to confirm contact information, then, if information was confirmed, covered entities received a questionnaire and were given 30 days to complete it.

It is a question asked regularly of CDA Practice Support analysts — under what circumstances does a dental practice need to provide a sign language interpreter for a patient? The CDA Practice Support resource titled Americans with Disabilities Act and Disability Rights Laws offers valuable information about accommodations that dental practices are obligated to provide under the law.