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A Welcome Move: HHS Proposes Updates to the Rehabilitation Act

The National Center’s Able Americans program and its senior researcher, Dr. Mark Mostert, are cheering proposed updates to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, saying the changes “will result in increased protections from discrimination for people with disabilities.”

The Rehabilitation Act, largely through section 504, provides protection from discrimination for people with disabilities when federal dollars are involved. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced a proposed rule and policy changes to the Act.

The changes — the most significant in the fifty years of the Act — are important to rectify outdated language, to harmonize the Act with legal precedent since 1973 and to attend to issues where discrimination might occur in areas that were not considered when the Act first became law.

Able Americans views these changes as critically important — not only in providing better service to Americans with disabilities, but also as important progress markers toward the program’s goals of seeing less big-government involvement in health care and more market-based solutions.

Mark P. Mostert

Mark P. Mostert

In comments submitted to the Federal RegisterMostert particularly praised how the proposed updates would address bioethical issues, noting that these changes “will help to ease the minds of people living with disabilities regarding their medical care.”

The HHS proposed changes include:

  • Prohibiting entities receiving HHS federal dollars from discriminating against people with disabilities in their programs and activities, including in health care, child welfare and other human services.
  • Prohibiting discrimination in the areas of medical treatment; the use of value assessments; web, mobile and kiosk accessibility; and accessible medical equipment.
  • Expanding and clarifying the obligation to provide nondiscriminatory child welfare services.
  • Updating the definition of disability to be consistent across the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • Clarifying the obligation to provide HHS services in the most integrated setting.
  • Updating outdated terminology and references.

These rule changes will help ensure that Americans with disabilities will be able to live productive lives free of discrimination and undue burdens of service going forward.

Able Americans desires to see health policies for people with disabilities shift from expensive, relatively inefficient, ever-expanding government interventions to market-driven solutions and policies. With this in mind, Mostert encouraged HHS to continue to seek significant streamlining of government policy.

The comments Mostert submitted to the Federal Register can be found here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.