On January 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement agreement with Ohio-based Genesis Healthcare System to resolve claims that it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it discriminated against a woman living with HIV.
Title III of the ADA prohibits public accommodations, such as healthcare providers, from discriminating against people with disabilities, including HIV. Following an investigation, the DOJ found that Genesis had discriminated against the woman when one of its primary care physicians refused to accept her as a new patient because of her HIV, despite the fact that she was only seeking a general practitioner for medical care unrelated to HIV. As a result, the woman had to seek medical treatment at the local emergency room for non-emergent health issues. The department’s investigation revealed that it was that doctor’s practice to refer any patients with HIV seeking a primary care physician to an HIV specialist.
Under the settlement, Genesis will pay $25,000 to the woman, and a $9,000 civil penalty. In addition, it must train its staff on the ADA, develop and implement a non-discrimination policy, and report to the department every time a person with HIV (or who is suspected of having HIV) is denied care or discharged as a patient, with a written justification for the decision.
The settlement is part of the department’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, a partnership of the DOJ Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s offices to target enforcement efforts on access to health care for individuals with disabilities.