12 August 2015

DOJ Announces Settlements Enforcing ADA Requirements Related to Providing Care to Deaf Patients

Last month the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced settlements with three health care providers who failed to provide effective communication to patients who were deaf or had hearing disabilities. Two of the providers were physicians located in Michigan and the third provider was a skilled nursing facility located in Virginia.

The facts leading to the three settlements were similar. In each case, a patient or family member requested a sign language interpreter. In each case, the provider failed to provide an interpreter or other services necessary to ensure effective communication. The DOJ investigated the complaints and determined the health care providers had discriminated against the patients in violation of federal law.

Among other things, the settlements required each health care provider to draft new policies that explain auxiliary aids and services, such as sign language interpreters, will be provided free of charge. The providers were also required to compensate the complainants in amounts ranging from $500 to $80,000.

The settlements were part of the DOJ’s ongoing Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative which focuses on access to medical services and facilities for people with disabilities, including people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Both the DOJ and the Office of Civil Rights regularly investigate health care providers who are accused of discriminating against patients with disabilities.

Miller Johnson will continue to monitor legal developments related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the provision of medical services to individuals with disabilities. For more information regarding the settlements or compliance with the ADA, please contact the author or any member of Miller Johnson’s Employment-Health Care or Health Care Providers practice groups.