Capitol Correspondence - 04.11.23

HHS Reminds States of Civil Rights Obligations to Ensure Access to Medicaid and CHIP Coverage

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Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a letter to remind states of their obligation to comply with federal civil rights laws to ensure that individuals and families continue to have access to Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, especially after the expiration of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) continuous enrollment condition. The letter specifies the civil rights requirements and best practices for providing meaningful language access for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) and ensuring effective communication with people with disabilities.

The letter also indicates that around 15 million individuals will lose Medicaid coverage due to various reasons, and that children and young adults, especially those belonging to communities of color and low-income persons, will be disproportionately affected. The letter highlights that those most impacted will be the communities identified in Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.

The obligations to provide effective communication to people with disabilities and meaningful access to individuals with LEP also apply to subrecipients of federal financial assistance. Therefore, external entities contracted by state agencies to provide Medicaid or CHIP information to applicants and enrollees must take steps to provide meaningful access for individuals with LEP and ensure effective communication with people with disabilities. The letter stresses the need for equal access for communities of color and language access for individuals with limited English proficiency. The letter specifies that programs receiving federal financial assistance cannot discriminate based on race, color, or national origin and that reasonable steps must be taken to provide meaningful language access to individuals with LEP.