CPR and Partners File Complaint Regarding Illegal Disability Discrimination in Treatment Rationing During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 23, 2020

The Center for Public Representation, Disability Rights Washington, The Arc, Bazelon Center, Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Sam Bagenstos filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) this morning regarding illegal disability discrimination in treatment rationing protocols being developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complaint focuses on treatment rationing protocols described in a plan released Friday by the Washington Department of Health and the Northwest Healthcare Regional Network. The plan, developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, gives priority for treatment to younger, healthier patients, discriminating against older patients and patients with disabilities without considering their individualized cases and ability to survive this acute crisis. These protocols, the complaint argues, violate federal disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

CPR and our partners call on HHS OCR to take immediate action to provide guidance on what health care providers in Washington – and across the country – must do to comply with federal laws protecting the rights of all patients, including those with disabilities, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidance is needed within hours or days, not weeks or months, as health care providers are implementing policies now that threaten the lives of people with disabilities.

This is an issue that has also been raised by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the National Council on Disability (NCD) in letters to HHS OCR (which can be read here and here). We urge HHS OCR to provide the much needed guidance disability advocates around the country are asking for now to provide clarity in the midst of this rapidly evolving crisis.

You can read the complaint in full here and The Arc’s press release announcing the filing of the complaint can be read here. For more on the complaint filing, check out these articles from the New York Times, Bloomberg Law, and Kitsapp Sun.

More information on the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on people with disabilities can be found on our webpage.