The issue

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) continues to shape the health policy landscape. The ACA included many health insurance reforms and nondiscrimination provisions that help ensure people with paralysis can access the health care they need.

However, people living with disabilities continue to face discrimination. Many physicians' offices and equipment remain inaccessible to people using wheelchairs. People with disabilities experience discrimination in organ transplantation and other life-saving measures. The reforms of the Affordable Care Act have still not been fully implemented, and need enforcement.

According to data collected by the Reeve Foundation, 84% of people with paralysis are going without medical care, tests and treatments, due to both financial and physical access barriers.

Recent action

The Affordable Care Act required the US Access Board to create standards for Medical Diagnostic Equipment. In 2012, the board issued proposed standards, and a year later released an advisory report, but the final standards have yet to be released.

The Affordable Care Act Section 1557 prohibited discrimination in health insurance on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and – for the first time – disability.

On May 18, 2016, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights issued final regulations to implement this law. This regulation includes standards for accessibility of buildings and equipment, as well as prohibitions against discrimination in all health-related programs or activities.

Once implemented, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services can enforce the nondiscrimination provisions.

Next steps

The Reeve Foundation believes that all people should have access to the health care they need.

We will work with the Access Board, Office for Civil Rights, and join forces with other offices and disability advocates so that the nondiscrimination provisions of the ACA are implemented. We will also work to develop new policies to safeguard financial and physical access to health care for people living with paralysis.