HHS Announces Final Conscience Rule Protecting Health Care Entities and Individuals

PUBLISHED: May 2, 2019
Relevant to: All Healthcare Organizations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released the final conscience rule that protects individuals and health care entities from discrimination on the basis of their exercise of conscience in HHS-funded programs. Just as OCR enforces other civil rights, the rule implements full and robust enforcement of approximately 25 provisions passed by Congress protecting longstanding conscience rights in healthcare.

This final rule revises existing regulations to ensure “vigorous enforcement” of Federal conscience and anti‐discrimination laws, delegates overall enforcement and compliance responsibility to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”). In addition, this final rule clarifies OCR’s authority to initiate compliance reviews, conduct investigations, supervise and coordinate compliance by the Department and its components, and use enforcement tools otherwise available in existing regulations to address violations and resolve complaints.

The final rule clarifies what covered entities need to do to comply with applicable conscience provisions and requires applicants for HHS federal financial assistance to provide assurances and certifications of compliance. The rule also specifies compliance obligations for covered entities, including cooperation with OCR, maintenance of records, reporting, and non-retaliation requirements.

StayAlert! is reviewing the newly released final rule and will publish more information as needed.

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