Section 1557 Regulations Clarify Nondiscrimination Protections and Access to Language Assistance

Section 1557 Regulations Clarify Nondiscrimination Protections and Access to Language Assistance

May 2024

By Gabrielle Lessard, Senior Policy Counsel, Health Justice

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and disability in many health care and related programs and services. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has established regulations to ensure equitable access to health care by defining and applying the ACA’s nondiscrimination provisions. These regulations took effect on July 6, 2024, with phased-in provisions.

These regulations are crucial for immigrant communities, as they establish standards and notification requirements for providing language assistance services to people with limited English proficiency (LEP). LEP individuals often encounter barriers to health care, including ineffective communication and the lack of a usual source of care. Quality language assistance services are vital to reducing disparities and improving health outcomes for LEP individuals.

The obligation to provide language services for meaningful access to federally funded programs has long been in place, but Section 1557 and its regulations offer important updates and clarifications on the scope of this obligation.

For more information, read our FAQ on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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