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Administration Releases Guidance on Non-Discrimination During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 30, 2020

On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights issued guidance regarding the obligation of states, health care providers and entities to comply with long-standing civil rights laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act and more that prohibit discrimination in health care on the basis of disability. The guidance comes amid worries about how people living with disabilities will fare as hospitals become overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and may be forced to ration equipment and care.

"As such, persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgments about a person’s relative ‘worth’ based on the presence or absence of disabilities,” reads the bulletin. “Decisions by covered entities concerning whether an individual is a candidate for treatment should be based on an individualized assessment of the patient based on the best available objective medical evidence.”

The Society has been tracking on developments in the states (specifically in relation to certain states’ health department guidance) that may jeopardize the health of people with disabilities or other conditions. Additionally, we have begun to monitor and join complaints about policies that could jeopardize life-saving care for people with disabilities during health emergencies, and endorsed a set of Guiding Principles by leaders in disability rights and protections on avoiding on discriminatory rationing of health care resources. We will continue to monitor this situation at the federal and state levels. If you have questions or concerns please contact an MS Navigator

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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