DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care. 02-05-2019


Office of the Secretary

Protecting Statutory Conscience Rights in Health Care; Delegations of Authority

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SUMMARY: The United States has a long history of providing protections in health care for individuals and entities on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. Congress has passed many such laws applicable to the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS” or the “Department”) and the programs or activities it funds or administers, some of which are the subject of existing HHS regulations at 45 CFR part 88. This final rule revises existing regulations to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal conscience and anti‐discrimination laws applicable to the Department, its programs, and recipients of HHS funds, and to delegate overall enforcement and compliance responsibility to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”). In addition, this final rule clarifies OCR’s authority to initiate compliance reviews, conduct investigations, supervise and coordinate compliance by the Department and its components, and use enforcement tools otherwise available in existing regulations to address violations and resolve complaints. In

This HHS‐approved document is being submitted to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for publication and has not yet been placed on public display or published in the Federal Register. This document may vary slightly from the published document if minor editorial changes are made during the OFR review process. The document published in the Federal Register is the official HHS‐approved document. 2 order to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance and other Department funds comply with their legal obligations, this final rule requires certain recipients to maintain records; cooperate with OCR’s investigations, reviews, or other proceedings; and submit written assurances and certifications of compliance to the Department. The final rule also encourages the recipients of HHS funds to provide notice to individuals and entities about their right be free from coercion or discrimination on account of religious beliefs or moral convictions.