HHS issues guidelines to the nation’s retail pharmacies clarifying their obligations to ensure access to comprehensive reproductive health care

Today, following President Biden’s executive order to ensure access to reproductive health care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is today issuing guidelines to approximately 60,000 U.S. pharmacies reminding them of their obligations under federal civil rights laws. The guidelines make it clear that as recipients of federal financial assistance, including Medicare and Medicaid payments, pharmacies are prohibited by law from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability in their programs and activities. This includes providing prescription medications; make determinations regarding the appropriateness of prescription medications for a patient; and advising a patient on prescription medications and how to use them. The action is the latest step in HHS’s response to protect reproductive health care.

“We are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to health care, without discrimination,” Secretary Becerra said. “This includes access to prescription drugs for reproductive health and other forms of care.”

Under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557), 42 USC 18116, recipients of federal financial assistance cannot bar an individual from participating in, deny them the benefits of, or otherwise subject them to discrimination on the basis of sex and other grounds ( ie, race, color, nationality, age and disability) in their programs and activities. Under federal civil rights law, pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination based on current pregnancy, previous pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Read the guidelines here: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pharmacies-guidance.pdf*

HHS is committed to ensuring that people have access to reproductive health care free from discrimination. If you believe that you or someone else’s civil rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with HHS at: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints/index.html.

Below is a list of actions HHS took in the days following the Supreme Court ruling to ensure access to reproductive health care:

  • Launch of the ReproductiveRights.gov awareness website, which includes a fact sheet about patients knowing their rights;
  • Convened a meeting with health insurers and sent them a letter urging the industry to commit to fulfilling their obligations to cover free contraceptive services as required by the Affordable Care Act;
  • Issued guidelines for patients and healthcare providers that address the extent to which federal laws and regulations protect individuals’ personal medical information when seeking abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, as well as the use of health information apps on smartphones;
  • Announcing nearly $3 million in new funding to support training and technical support for the nationwide network of Title X family planning providers;
  • Met with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Maine Governor Janet Mills and Attorneys General to discuss state-specific concerns;
  • Issued guidance on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) confirming that this act protects providers when providing legally mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.

* People using assistive technology may not have full access to the information in these files. For assistance, contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights at (800) 368-1019, TDD toll free: (800) 537-7697, or by emailing [email protected]

HHS issues guidelines to the nation’s retail pharmacies clarifying their obligations to ensure access to comprehensive reproductive health care

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