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Hepatitis B Foundation and Hep B United Statement on the Federal Government's Rollback of Critical Health Care Protections

 Doylestown, Pa., June 16, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule on June 12 that rolls back critical nondiscrimination protections provided under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Section 1557, also referred to as the Health Care Rights Law, was enacted as part of the ACA in 2010 to protect patients from health care discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age and sex. The Trump administration’s final rule makes significant changes to weaken Section 1557 by removing protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The rule also removes requirements for health plans and other federally funded entities to notify Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals of their right to language access services, such as health care interpreters and translated materials containing critical health care information. 

”All people should be able to access the health care they need without fear of being turned away, shamed or treated unfairly,” said Kate Moraras, deputy director of public health at the Hepatitis B Foundation and director of Hep B United. “We denounce the Trump administration’s decision to roll back important civil rights protections provided under Section 1557, and we are gravely concerned about the detrimental impacts this rule will have on marginalized communities. It intentionally limits access to health care for LGBTQ people and people with limited English skills, jeopardizing the lives of people already vulnerable to discrimination and seriously endangering individuals with chronic conditions such as hepatitis B.”

Without access to appropriate monitoring, care and treatment when necessary, Moraras said, approximately one in four people with chronic hepatitis B will die prematurely of liver cancer, liver failure, or cirrhosis.

LGBTQ and LEP communities are among those at highest risk of hepatitis B infection. For example: 

  • Nationally, men who have sex with men (MSM) are at heightened risk for hepatitis B and C; nearly 20% of new hepatitis B cases are among MSM. 
  • Asian American, Pacific Islander and African communities are disproportionately affected, with these communities comprising up to 80% of all chronic hepatitis B infections across the country. 
  • Among those chronically infected with hepatitis B, an estimated 70% are non-U.S.-born and face unique barriers in accessing health care services, including language access barriers. 

The Hepatitis B Foundation and Hep B United stand firmly against the Trump administration’s final rule on Section 1557. Allowing providers, insurance companies, hospitals and other health care entities to discriminate against patients – for example, to refuse to test or provide treatment to a patient based on a provider or staff member’s personal beliefs – is unacceptable. This rule will only further exacerbate hepatitis B-related health disparities and reverse progress that has been made to eliminate the disease. 

For more information regarding our concerns about this rule and how it could impact people living with or at risk of hepatitis, read our comment letter

About the Hepatitis B Foundation: The nation’s leading nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy, the Hepatitis B Foundation is based in Doylestown, Pa. To learn more, go to www.hepb.org, read our blog at hepb.org/blog, follow us on Twitter @HepBFoundation, find us on Facebook at facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call 215-489-4900. To donate, contact Jean Holmes at 215-489-4900 or jean.holmes@hepb.org.

About Hep B United: Hep B United is a national coalition co-chaired by the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations dedicated to reducing the health disparities associated with hepatitis B by increasing awareness, screening, vaccination, and linkage to care for high-risk communities across the United States. To learn more, visit www.hepbunited.org