Fair Access for All: The Proposed Rule’s Potential to Strengthen Anti-Discrimination in Pharmacies

The Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to bolster the importance of equal access to health care and human services for individuals with disabilities through a new proposed rule. The Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Programs or Activities rule will update and clarify the obligations stated in the original Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, enacted almost fifty years ago. Under Section 504, individuals with disabilities are afforded equal access to any federally funded program or activity and cannot be discriminated against due to their disability. Within the article released by the HHS Press Office on September 7, 2023, it states that the COVID-19 pandemic “shone a spotlight” on areas of discrimination, such as individuals being refused medical treatment due to their disability, inability to access medical equipment and websites, and being forced to receive treatments only in institutional settings. As a result, the Administration for Community Living along with the Office for Civil Rights suggested the following changes be made to the current implementation of Section 504:

  • Decisions on medical treatments cannot be based on biases or stereotypes, such as judgements that the individual will be a burden on others or beliefs that one’s life is less valuable
  • Clarifies the obligation health care and human services must provide access for web, mobile, and kiosk to all individuals
  • Establishes enforceable standards for access to medical equipment
  • Prohibits the use of value assessment methods that determine lower value on life-extension for people with disabilities when used to determine an individual’s access to aids, benefits, and services

It is becoming increasingly apparent that cultural competency and the ability to provide equivalent services across all patient populations is imperative. The first step to adhering to this new standard of care is ensuring staff has undergone Cultural Competency Training. Login to the PAAS Member Portal to view the on-demand webinar “Does My Pharmacy Really Need Cultural Competency Training?” for additional information.

Call PAAS National® (608) 873-1342 to add PAAS’ Cultural Competency Training to your membership.

Meredith Thiede, PharmD