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WASHINGTON – Beginning July 18, pharmacies will be required to abide by rules that regulate discriminatory behavior and practices, such as refusing to provide adequate language assistance services to customers with limited English proficiency or refusing to dispense medications for gender transitions.
Infractions under the regulation, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its Office of Civil Rights, could result in civil lawsuits against pharmacies. To help pharmacists adhere to the Nondiscrimination Regulation, the American Pharmacists Association has developed an overview of requirements and a more detailed summary that highlights key aspects of the rule and requirements relevant to pharmacists.
The rule, which implements Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination, requires health care entities receiving federal financial assistance, such as those that accept Medicaid and Medicare, to engage in practices designed to prevent discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, nationality or gender, including gender identity.
At the heart of the rule are requirements that pharmacies take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency or a disability, particularly the blind and deaf. Measures to address this include requiring pharmacies to display posters and notices informing patients that it will make available language assistance to patients who need it. HHS will make the notices available online, which will already be translated into several languages to ease costs and help health care entities comply.
In addition to providing free services and materials for people with limited English proficiency or disabilities, other steps that a health care entity has to comply with as part of its financial assistance application include proof that it is informing the public on how to obtain aids and services, contact methods for the employee responsible for compliance, the availability of a grievance procedure, and OCR’s contact information for discrimination complaints.