By prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’s) July 2022 proposed rule strengthens Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, improving civil rights protections for patients in certain federally funded health programs.

“This proposed rule ensures that people nationwide can access healthcare free from discrimination,” Xavier Becerra, HHS secretary, said. “Standing with communities in need is critical, particularly given increased attacks on women, trans youth, and healthcare providers. Health care should be a right not dependent on looks, location, love, language, or the type of care someone needs.”

“Strengthening Section 1557 supports our ongoing efforts to provide high-quality, affordable health care and to drive health equity for all people served by our programs,” Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, said. “This work will help eliminate avoidable differences in health outcomes experienced by those who are underserved and provide the care and support that people need to thrive."

Taking action to end discrimination in health care helps advance care provision, especially for those in special populations. When it comes to patients with cancer, lack of access to essential health care can affect outcomes, and oncology nurses can help advocate for patients’ rights to timely, quality care.