Healthcare and Title VI – What You Need to Know
In the United States, many laws address discrimination, ensuring that the population is well protected and has access to crucial services. Title VI is one such law.
While Title VI doesn’t only focus on healthcare, that is a major component. If you’re curious about Title VI and how it impacts healthcare, here’s what you need to know.
What Is Title VI?
Title VI is a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that addresses specific forms of discrimination regarding accessing certain services. When it comes to medical care, Title VI ensures that covered healthcare facilities cannot deny access to protected individuals on the basis of race, national origin, or color.
When it comes to discriminatory acts, a variety of situations fall in that category. This includes denial of access to care, as well as financial aid, Medicare, Medicaid, public assistance, or other benefits that are considered part of the healthcare services program, on the basis of race, national origin, or color. Additionally, providing different service levels – as well as segregating treatment in any manner – based on those factors is prohibited.
Title VI also requires healthcare facilities to provide access to certain services that enhance accessibility. One of the main requirements involves language assistance. The provision ensures that individuals who have limited English proficiency (LEP) have access to translated documents and signage, as well as interpreters when needed.
Healthcare Facilities Covered by Title VI
Generally speaking, Title VI applies to any healthcare facility that receives federal funding, including financial assistance through the Hill-Burton Act and certain other sources. As a result, nearly any kind of healthcare facility can potentially fall under Title VI, including:
- Extended Care Facilities
- Nursing Homes
- Mental Health Centers
- Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers
- Family Health Centers
- Public Assistance Programs
- And More
It is important to note that any facility that doesn’t receive federal financial support doesn’t necessarily fall under Title VI. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have to adhere to other laws that address discriminatory practices, simply that Title VI itself may not apply.
Patient Rights Under Title VI
As a patient, you cannot be denied access to services from a covered healthcare facility on the basis of your race, national origin, or color. Along with care in general, this includes various kinds of financial assistance that is generally available to patients who meet certain criteria, such as having an income level below a set threshold.
Additionally, covered healthcare facilities are required to provide specific kinds of language services if needed. This includes:
- Free Language Assistance
- Translated Essential Documents
- Translated Signage
When it comes to written and oral language assistance, healthcare facilities are required to provide support to those who speak or read languages that are predominant in their service area. This means that immediately available language services can vary, as different regions have different populations.
When it comes to uncommon languages in a region, healthcare facilities aren’t necessarily required to have translated documents or signage on-hand or to provide an on-site interpreter. However, with remote interpreter options, interpretation over the phone or via video call can be a suitable substitute.
Under Title VI, you also maintain your private right to sue healthcare facilities that use discriminatory practices in the delivery or denial of services. This right remains regardless of the outcome of any formal investigation by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) into the matter.
Penalties for Violating Title VI as a Healthcare Provider
While it’s important to note that not all healthcare providers are covered by Title VI, those that are could face serious penalties for violations. If there is a question about a facility’s adherence to the law, an OCR investigation may occur, allowing officials to determine whether there is a compliance issue.
Noncompliance could eliminate a facility’s access to federal financial assistance. In many cases, a loss of that much funding could make closure a necessity.
Additionally, healthcare facilities and practitioners could be subject to medical malpractice. Along with financial ramifications, that may also lead them to lose their licenses.
Finally, as mentioned above, impacted individuals do have a right to sue. Along with the cost of going to court, facilities may be required to compensate the person who was denied access. How much that may cost can vary depending on the severity of the act and what sort of penalty is deemed fitting in the judgment.
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