OCR and DOJ Enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act

January 04, 2017

HHS OCR and the US Attorney’s Office of Connecticut Enter Agreement with UConn Health to Ensure Effective Communication with its Subsidiary


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut (DOJ), entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the John Dempsey Hospital, a subsidiary of the University of Connecticut Health Center (UConn Health), to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The Agreement resolves a complaint filed with DOJ on behalf of an individual who is deaf, alleging that UConn Health failed to provide timely auxiliary aids and services to effectively communication with the patient during a visit to the John Dempsey Hospital’s Emergency Department. According to the complaint, despite requesting services upon arrival, the complainant was not provided an interpreter or video remote interpreting services; and relied on a companion to interpret during the hospital visit.

In partnership with DOJ, OCR conducted a compliance review of UConn Health’s policies and procedures for effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to determine compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Section 1557). Collectively, these Federal civil rights laws prohibit any entity that receive Federal financial assistance from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities, and requires an entity to take steps to ensure communication with individuals with disabilities is as effective as communication with others through the use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services. 

As a result of the investigation and compliance review, UConn Health voluntarily entered this Agreement and affirmed its assurance of compliance with Title II, Section 504 and Section 1557. Under this Agreement, UConn Health agreed to take steps to ensure the availability of auxiliary aids and services at the John Dempsey Hospital, as follows:

  • Assign a Civil Rights Coordinator;
  • Revise its policies and procedures;
  • Incorporate a general assessment evaluation into the patient intake process;
  • Track all requests for auxiliary aids and services;
  • Monitor performance of interpreter services to ensure effective communication; 
  • Adopt a grievance procedure;
  • Post a Notice of Nondiscrimination;
  • Post a Nondiscrimination Statement; and
  • Conduct mandatory training for all staff.

 Additionally, UConn Health has agreed to $20,000.00US in compensatory relief for the complainant.