HHS OCR and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan Enter Voluntary Resolution Agreement with Michigan Bariatric Practice to Protect Patients from HIV Discrimination

Content From: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services NewsroomPublished: March 04, 20213 min read


Cross-posted from HHS Newsroom

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights ("HHS OCR") and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan have entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with Great Lakes Surgical Associates ("GLSA") to protect patients from discrimination on the basis of HIV status. The Complainant, an African American man and a Medicare beneficiary, initially filed a complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ), reporting that his primary care physician referred him to GLSA for bariatric surgery to address his high blood pressure and diabetes. However, GLSA allegedly refused to fully evaluate him for bariatric surgery or to provide him with the surgery due to the Complainant's HIV status.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan investigated the allegation that GLSA discriminated against the Complainant based on his disability, in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("Title III of the ADA"). Title III of the ADA prohibits public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of their goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations.

In cooperation with DOJ, HHS OCR initiated a compliance review to determine GLSA's compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504"), and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 ("Section 1557"). Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability (including HIV status) in programs or activities that receive HHS funding, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or physician practice groups. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.

The Voluntary Resolution Agreement requires GLSA to:

  • Post a Notice of Nondiscrimination notifying GLSA personnel, patients, and the public that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability, including HIV status, in its health programs or activities;
  • Provide assurances that, in the future, it will not discriminate on the basis of disability; nor retaliate against any person who has made, or is making, a disability discrimination complaint;
  • Adopt a Grievance Procedure and designate a Civil Rights Coordinator who will investigate grievances or discrimination complaints made against GLSA;
  • Establish and implement policies and procedures for providing services in a nondiscriminatory manner to individuals with disabilities;
  • Arrange for training of all personnel on GLSA's obligations to not discriminate against individuals with disabilities; and
  • Report on implementation of the Agreement for a three-year term.

In addition, pursuant to DOJ's authority under Title III of the ADA, GLSA has agreed to compensate the Complainant in the amount of $37,000.

"The HHS Office for Civil Rights is committed to ensuring that all individuals with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from health care programs and services," said Acting HHS OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese. "Discrimination against individuals with HIV in health care or human services is unlawful and we will continue to take appropriate steps to remedy discrimination when it occurs and provide consumers with knowledge about their rights and providers with awareness of their obligations."

A copy of the Voluntary Resolution Agreement may be found at: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/glsa-joint-vra.pdf - PDF*.

To learn more about civil rights and health information privacy laws that HHS OCR enforces, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at www.hhs.gov/ocr.

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* People using assistive technology may not be able to fully access information in this file. For assistance, contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights at (800) 368-1019, TDD toll-free: (800) 537-7697, or by emailing OCRMail@hhs.gov.