Federal Complaint says New Emergency Rule Illegally Denies Support for People with Disabilities in Hospitals

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Urgent Complaint filed by Disability Rights Texas and Others Requests Immediate Investigation

Earlier this week, Disability Rights Texas and 14 other organizations and individuals filed a complaint with U.S. Office of Civil Rights (OCR) against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) for a new emergency rule that removed protections for persons with disabilities to have a support person assist them in hospitals.

An earlier rule contained clear language that allowed hospital entry to persons who provided essential services, which included a single designated caregiver acting on the patient’s behalf, but the new rule does not.

The complaint says that by not allowing support to a patient with a disability who requires it, the new rule denies individuals with disabilities equal access to medical treatment by:

  • Denying them effective communication;
  • Depriving them of their right to make informed decisions and provide informed consent;
  • Subjecting them to the unnecessary use of physical and chemical restraints;
  • Denying them adequate and necessary medical treatment and care; and,
  • Subjecting them to substantial and lasting emotional harm.

The complaint says this denial of a reasonable accommodation for hospital patients with disabilities is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

Many people with disabilities are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing life-threatening complications from the virus. Many others with disabilities may need to be hospitalized for other reasons. It is therefore critical that such persons be able to effectively communicate with medical personnel while in the hospital.

In light of the latest surge in cases and hospitalizations in Texas, Disability Rights Texas and its partners have requested that the OCR immediately investigate and issue findings that HHSC’s new rules discriminate against people with disabilities.

Read the full complaint attached below.

Attached documents