On January 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Ohio-based Genesis Healthcare System will pay $25,000 in damages and a $9,000 civil penalty to resolve claims that it discriminated against a woman with HIV in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Genesis must also train its staff on the ADA, develop and implement a non-discrimination policy, and report to the DOJ 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.
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 this doctor’s practice to refer any patients with HIV seeking a primary care physician to an HIV specialist.