Health Care, Human Services, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The section Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a national law that protects persons from discrimination based on their race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. If you are eligible for Medicaid, other health care, or human services, you cannot be denied assistance because of your race, color, or national origin. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) enforces Title VI as well as other civil rights laws including: the Americans with Disabilties Act (ADA), the Hill-Burton Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Some of the institutions or programs that may be covered by Title VI are:
- Extended care facilities
- Public assistance programs
- Nursing homes
- Adoption agencies
- Day care centers
- Mental health centers
- Senior citizen centers
- Medicaid and Medicare
- Family health centers and clinics
- Alcohol and drug treatment centers
Prohibited Discriminatory Acts
There are many forms of illegal discrimination based on race, color, or national origin that frequently limit the opportunities of minorities to gain equal access to services. A recipient of Federal financial assistance may not, based on race, color, or national origin:
- Deny services, financial aid or other benefits provided as a part of health or human service programs.
- Provide a different service, financial aid or other benefit, or provide them in a different manner from those provided to others under the program.
- Segregate or separately treat individuals in any matter related to the receipt of any service, financial aid or other benefit.
Title VI Obligations of Healthcare Entities
In order to comply with Title VI, health care entities are required to perform the following actions:
- Provide free oral and written language assistance to patients who have limited English proficiency (LEP). The U.S. Supreme Court has held that discriminaton against individuals with LEP is considered discrimination against national origin. Therefore, these individuals are entitled to equal access just as English speakers are entitled. This also includes giving patients notice that they have a right to these services.
- Provide free written and oral assistance to patients with other special communication needs such as those who need audio assistance, large print, or Braille.
- Post signs and materials in languages of the service area's predominant cultural and ethnic groups. This includes making consent forms and other essential documents available in these languages.
Failure to comply with Title VI could result in a loss of federal or state funding for the health care entity. For example, a nursing home could lose their funding and be forced to close. Health care entites could also face medical malpractice charges.
Title VI not only requires government enforcement, but also provides a private right of action in federal court, a right to sue health care faciliites and institutions that engage in intentional discrimination that prevents accessibility or opportunities in health care under federally funded programs. Patients have the right to sue regardless of the finding of an OCR investigation.
Learn about Your Rights from a Civil Rights Attorney
Have you suffered from a Title VI violation? Were you turned away from a clinic because your English skills were limited? Did a nursing home mistreat you because of your race? Learn more about your rights under Title VI be talking to a civil rights attorney. An attorney can help you take the next steps.