HHS Delays Implementation of Conscience Protection Rule
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that, because of significant litigation, the agency will delay implementation of its Conscience Protection Rules that were originally set to go into effect on July 22, 2019.
The Conscience Protection Rule, which was finalized on May 21, 2019, revised existing regulations to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal conscience and anti‐discrimination laws applicable to HHS programs and recipients of HHS funds. The rule delegates overall enforcement and compliance responsibility to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”). In addition, the final rule clarifies OCR’s authority to initiate compliance reviews, conduct investigations, supervise and coordinate compliance and use enforcement tools otherwise available in existing regulations to address violations and resolve complaints.
However, in light of significant litigation over the rule, HHS agreed to a stipulated request to delay the effective date of the rule until November 22, 2019, pursuant to Administrative Procedure Act § 705, in order to allow the parties more time to respond to the litigation and to grant entities affected by the rule more time to prepare for compliance.
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