STATEMENT: HHS Guidance on Upholding Civil Rights of Disabled People Is a Good First Step, Says CAP’s Rebecca Cokley

Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights issued a new bulletin reminding health care providers of their obligations under laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, and exercise of conscience and religion in HHS-funded programs. Following the release of the guidance, Rebecca Cokley, director of the Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress, issued the following guidance:

Civil rights protections for people with disabilities must be enforced in decision-making tied to health care. People with disabilities should not be denied or postponed medical care or treatment—including treatment for COVID-19—on the basis of ableist-informed perceptions about their value or quality of life.

Disabled people are among the most at risk for contracting COVID-19, as well as for having serious complications or dying from the disease. HHS and other related agencies should go above and beyond to move resources to ensure that people with disabilities get what they need—wherever they reside—to be able to survive this pandemic. While today’s guidance is a good first step, HHS needs to issue further guidance to ensure that unproven claims about the treatment potential of certain pharmaceuticals do not cause pharmacies to deny lifesaving treatment to individuals as they stock up on medications for illnesses unrelated to COVID-19. Cases have already appeared in which lupus patients were denied access to chloroquine because of President Donald Trump’s unproven claims that it may be used as a treatment for COVID-19. This is unconscionable and may unnecessarily cost lives. HHS needs to move quickly to ensure that disabled people’s civil rights are upheld and that they get the treatment they need.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at .

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.