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Secretary Azar Hosts Foreign Officials to Reaffirm Trump Administration's Support for Protecting Life in Global Health Policy

Today, January 16, 2020, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar hosted ambassadors and high level officials from more than 30 countries representing more than 1.7 billion people at the Blair House for a meeting to further advance the Trump Administration's work within global health policy to promote a positive vision for women's health, protect the lives of the most vulnerable, defend the important role of the family, and encourage respect for national sovereignty. The meeting also served to further strengthen collaborative efforts among nations going forward in 2020.

During the meeting, Secretary Azar reaffirmed the Trump Administration's support for an international right to life and opposition to efforts by organizations like the United Nations to use diplomatic channels and declarations to undermine the sovereignty of individual nations on these matters.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák of Hungary, and the Deputy Chief of Mission Minister-Counselor Fernando Pimentel of Brazil also delivered remarks to the assembled officials.

Please find Secretary Azar's remarks here.

Find more on the joint statements organized by the Trump Administration regarding these issues over the past year here.

Thu, 16 Jan 2020 14:00:00 -0500

HHS OCR Secures Voluntary Resolution with CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System to Strengthen its Provision of Auxiliary Aids and Services to Individuals Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR), has entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA) with CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System (CHRISTUS TMF) resolving a compliance review concerning the rights of patients who are deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure that they receive effective communication.

Through this agreement, CHRISTUS TMF affirms that it will comply with its obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557) to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

CHRISTUS TMF is a faith-based, not-for-profit organization that includes six hospitals and over thirty clinics and outpatient centers in Texas. CHRISTUS TMF receives federal financial assistance through its participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and is subject to the requirements of Section 504 and Section 1557.

OCR initiated the compliance review after it received a complaint, on behalf of a CHRISTUS TMF patient, that a CHRISTUS TMF clinic and hospital failed to provide adequate or timely interpreter services despite multiple requests. OCR subsequently received information from additional patients alleging deficiencies in CHRISTUS TMF's provision of auxiliary aids and services to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. These allegations led OCR to conduct a broad review of CHRISTUS TMF's policies and procedures regarding its obligations under Section 504 and Section 1557.

As a result of OCR's investigation and review, CHRISTUS TMF and OCR have agreed that CHRISTUS TMF will take steps to strengthen the provision of auxiliary aids and services, including:

  • Performing communication assessments at patient intake and reassessing communication effectiveness regularly;
  • Improving and upgrading its review, assessment, and provision of qualified interpreters, including in-person and by video remote interpreting;
  • Providing annual staff training on effective communication;
  • Submitting reports to OCR regarding CHRISTUS TMF's ongoing compliance activities, on which OCR will provide CHRISTUS TMF with substantive technical assistance and feedback; and
  • Conducting outreach to local disability groups on the available auxiliary aids and services that CHRISTUS TMF provides to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Director Roger Severino, Director of OCR said, "Good healthcare starts with effective communication and this agreement helps eliminate unnecessary barriers to equal treatment for persons who are deaf of hard of hearing."


Click to read the CHRISTUS TMF Voluntary Resolution Agreement.

More information on OCR resources, federal resource, and other organization resources related to effective communication with individuals with a disability may be found at:

For additional information on OCR's work on effective communication for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, visit:

To learn more about Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, visit

To learn more about civil, conscience and religious freedom, and health information privacy rights in health and human services or to file a complaint, visit us at

Follow OCR on Twitter at @HHSOCR

Thu, 16 Jan 2020 10:00:00 -0500

HHS Announces Proposed Rule Regarding Equal Treatment of Faith-Based Organizations in HHS-Supported Social Service Programs

Today, January 16, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proposing a rule that implements President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831 (May 3, 2018), removes regulatory burdens on religious organizations, and ensures that religious and non-religious organizations are treated equally in HHS-supported programs.  The proposed rule ensures that HHS-supported social service programs are implemented in a manner consistent with the Constitution and other applicable federal law. 

“President Trump’s administration is taking historic action to protect religious social service providers from discrimination in federal regulations,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Americans of faith play an essential role in providing healthcare and human services to so many vulnerable people and communities, and President Trump is dedicated to removing every unfair barrier that stands in the way of this important work. Americans from every walk of life deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Our Constitution and civil rights laws ensure equal treatment and today’s action makes clear that the federal government cannot discriminate against people and institutions based on how they live out the dictates of their faith.”

Under current regulations that govern HHS-supported programs, religious providers of social services—but not other providers of social services—must make referrals under certain circumstances to alternative service providers and must post notices regarding this referral procedure.  These regulatory burdens had been required by then-President Obama’s Executive Order No. 13559 (Nov. 17, 2010).   Consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831 (May 3, 2018), HHS’s proposed rule would eliminate these requirements from department regulations.  As HHS’s proposed rule observes, these burdens were not required by any applicable law, and because they were imposed only on religious social service providers, they are in tension with recent Supreme Court precedent regarding nondiscrimination against religious organizations.  The proposed rule also will foreclose other unequal treatment of religious organizations by ensuring that they are not required to provide assurances or notices that are not required of secular organizations. 

By compelling religious organizations, but not secular organizations, to post special notices and make referrals, the alternative-provider requirements placed burdens unequally on religious organizations and cast unwarranted suspicion on them.  By singling out religious organizations for unique regulatory burdens, the requirements infringed the organizations’ religious liberty rights.

In addition, the proposed rule will clarify that religious organizations may apply for awards on the same basis as any other organization and that when HHS selects award recipients, HHS will not discriminate based on an organization’s religious character. The proposed rule also clarifies that religious organizations participating in HHS-supported programs retain their independence from the government and may continue to carry out their missions consistent with religious freedom protections in federal law, including the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. 

The proposed rule incorporates the Attorney General’s 2017 Memorandum for All Executive Departments and Agencies, Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty.  That memorandum was issued pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13798 (May 4, 2017), and it guides all federal administrative agencies and executive departments in complying with federal law.

Thu, 16 Jan 2020 08:45:00 -0500

HHS Activates Emergency Prescription Assistance Program for Uninsured Puerto Rico Residents Needing Medicine after Recent Earthquakes

As part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide response to the series of earthquakes and aftershocks affecting Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) activated its Emergency Prescription Assistance Program (EPAP) for Puerto Rico to give residents access to the critical prescription medications they need. The program pays for prescription medications for people without health insurance who are affected by disasters.

“When a disaster strikes, medications can get lost or damaged, putting people’s health and well-being at risk and straining local healthcare systems. HHS is here to help,” said HHS’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “I encourage uninsured residents in Puerto Rico to take advantage of this vital prescription program.”

At no cost to uninsured patients, those needing certain prescription medications, medical supplies, vaccinations, and some forms of medical equipment during an emergency can obtain a 30-day supply at any of the EPAP participating pharmacies. A list of the eligible products is available online. Patients can renew their prescriptions every 30 days while the EPAP is active.

Patients can also use the program to replace many prescription drugs, specific medical supplies, vaccines or medical equipment lost as a direct result of the declared emergency or as a secondary result of loss or damage caused while in transit from the emergency site to the designated shelter facility.

EPAP provides an efficient mechanism for enrolled pharmacies to process claims for prescription medication, specific medical supplies, vaccines and some forms of durable medical equipment (DME) for eligible individuals in a federally identified disaster area. More than 750 pharmacies in Puerto Rico participate in EPAP.

Uninsured Puerto Rico residents affected by the earthquakes can call Express Scripts, 855-793-7470, to learn if their medication or specific DME is covered by EPAP and to find a participating pharmacy.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico on January 7, 2020, due to the earthquakes and HHS Secretary Azar subsequently declared a public health emergency in the area.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

To learn more about protecting individual and patient health as well as actions that HHS is taking, see ASPR’s 2020 Earthquakes in Puerto Rico site.  For those interested in providing information to help keep their community healthy after disaster, please see the HHS list of Public Service Announcements. To learn more about EPAP, check out HHS Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, a video that uses American Sign Language to explain eligibility and how the program works.

Wed, 15 Jan 2020 11:30:00 -0500

Draft Federal Health IT Strategic Plan Supports Patient Access to Their Own Health Information

Public Comments Encouraged on Federal Plan

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the draft 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan for public comment. The draft plan outlines federal health information technology (health IT) goals and objectives to ensure that individuals have access to their electronic health information to help enable them to manage their health and shop for care. The strategic plan was developed by the HHS Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in collaboration with more than 25 federal organizations.

“The draft federal strategic plan supports the provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act that will help to bring electronic health information into the hands of patients through smartphone applications,” said Don Rucker, M.D. “We look forward to public comment to help guide the federal government’s strategy to have a more connected health system that better serves patients.”

The federal agencies that helped to create the draft strategic plan regulate, purchase, develop, and use health IT to help deliver care and improve patient health. Through these efforts, stakeholders such as providers, payers, and researchers are increasingly using health IT tools and systems that can provide individual patients access to their health information, provide for tracking and managing of their health care treatments, and allow for interactions with their healthcare providers. These can include the use of:

  • Electronic health records and patient portals through programs like Medicare and Medicaid at CMS, and health service programs at the Indian Health Service, Veterans Administration, and the Department of Defense,
  • Data systems to help monitor and pay for health care services, and  
  • Health IT systems used for public health surveillance and research.

“The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan represents the work being done, collectively and individually, to help ensure that patients and their providers can electronically access the health information they need to help them manage their care,” said Lauren Thompson, Interoperability Director for the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization Program Office. “We are looking for public comment about ways to expand the use of health IT to help improve the quality of care for people, so that those currently serving in or retired from the armed forces can benefit from a great care delivery experience, along with all other Americans.”

The final 2020-2025 strategic plan will serve as a roadmap for federal agencies and drive private sector alignment. Agency officials will use it to prioritize resources, align and coordinate efforts across agencies, signal priorities to the private sector, and benchmark and assess change over time.

In today’s digital world, patients’ right to control their health must include the right to access and control of their health information. Most healthcare providers and health systems now use EHRs, but information captured in these systems often remains inaccessible to patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers across different settings. All stakeholders in the healthcare sector will benefit from a fully connected health system that empowers patients, caregivers, and their healthcare providers to securely access, exchange, and use electronic health information.

The public comment period on the draft of the 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan ends on March 18, 2020 at 11:59 pm ET.

Wed, 15 Jan 2020 09:00:00 -0500

Latest Top (5) News

Latest Top (5) News