HHS Announces Resolution to Disability Access Complaints Against MedStar

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced Thursday that it had resolved a series of disability discrimination complaints against MedStar hospitals. The complaints arose from visitor restrictions enacted at MedStar facilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the press release explained that none of the complainants suffered from COVID-19 themselves.

The complaints specifically concerned restrictions that prevented people with disabilities from access to support persons, defined as ” a family member, personal care assistant, similar disability service provider, or other individual knowledgeable about the management or care of the patient who is authorized to assist the patient in making decisions.” The complainants alleged that the restrictions prevented them from getting equal access to healthcare because they could not access the support they needed.

OCR explained that they used their early complaint resolution process to work with both the complainants and the hospitals at issue, three facilities in and around Washington, D.C. As a result, MedStar ” revised its policy to clearly distinguish between “visitors” and “support persons,” who perform specific disability-related functions for patients with disabilities when necessary to have an equal opportunity to obtain and benefit from health care services,” the press release explained.