State Issues COVID-19 Non-Discrimination Guidance

April 20, 2020

On Friday, guidance was provided jointly by the Dept. of Public Health, the Dept. of Human Services, the Dept. on Aging, the Dept. of Human Rights, and the Governor’s Office, titled “Guidance Relating to Non-Discrimination in Medical Treatment for Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).” Recommendations are provided for healthcare providers to ensure that fairness and equity are incorporated into the delivery of care for COVID-19, including, but not limited to:

  • Preventing disability discrimination with individualized assessments that do not assume “quality of life” related to a person’s underlying disability, reasonable accommodations like an interpreter or aide, and reviewing treatment protocols to ensure they safeguard against the biases of practitioners;
  • Preventing racial disparities by receiving medical history inquiries and diagnostic testing to ensure treatment is efficacious (e.g., for chronic conditions that can lead to increased COVID-19 fatalities), encouraging outreach to marginalized communities for participation in COVID-19 initiatives, and using a range of communication methods to reach the broadest audience; and,   
  • Access to healthcare for persons experiencing financial insecurity, undocumented persons, and individuals with limited English proficiency.

The guidance references federal civil rights laws that detail nondiscrimination mandates healthcare providers are subject to, including Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibit discrimination in the context of allocation of medical care. In addition to protections under federal law, the Illinois Human Rights Act provides that every person is entitled access to the “full and equal enjoyment of services.”