Three doctors sprinting toward a big screen showing a website

Recent Legal Activity in the Healthcare Industry

Written by: Rishi Agrawal

The past few years have been very busy in terms of litigation and structured settlements regarding accessibility and healthcare. There are great strides being made to provide more equal access to healthcare for persons with disabilities. The following cases are relevant to SSB’s area of expertise, that is, information and communications technology.

US Health and Human Services

In February 2016, the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and other disability advocates filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts. They claimed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and their sub-contractors violated the civil rights of blind and low vision Medicare recipients.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that individuals have meaningful and equally effective access to information. Without accessible information, blind or low vision Medicare recipients cannot read information about their accounts, fill out and sign online forms, or respond to CMS in a timely manner. This can result in individuals losing their benefits and having their healthcare disrupted unnecessarily.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We are outraged that blind people do not have access to their personal Medicare and Medicaid information forty years after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act and almost a year after CMS promised to implement a plan for equal access. Today blind people readily access information in more ways than ever before but even large print access, the simplest possible solution for those with sufficient residual vision, is not made available. This continued disregard for the privacy and civil rights of the blind is inexcusable, and blind Americans will not tolerate it.”[i]

Despite CMS having signed a commitment to have a long-term action plan for accessibility by April 2015, the plan has not yet been published.

Talking Prescription Labels

Thanks to structured negotiation between various pharmacies and advocacy groups, accessible labels were made available at:

  • Caremark: In January 2015, the mail order branch of CVSHealth began offering talking, braille, and large print prescription labels.
  • CVS: As of March 2014, customers can request talking labels through cvs.com. In early 2016, CVS began providing large print labels at local stores.
  • H-E-B: In late 2015, this grocery store chain began offering talking prescription labels at some Texas locations.
  • Humana: In September 2015, Humana began offering both braille and talking prescription labels through mail order. Customers in Florida can also get talking labels at PrescribeIT locations.
  • Kaiser Permanente: In California, blind and low vision members of Kaiser Permanente can get TalkingRx labels or large print labels.
  • Rite Aid: Rite Aid’s accessible prescription initiative was announced in February 2016. The Talking Pill Reminder is available at its retail stores, but if customers prefer, they can receive ScripTalk labels instead.
  • Walgreens: Their Talking Pill Reminder has been available free of charge since June of 2014.

More information on talking prescription labels was in our recent blog post on healthcare technology and accessibility.

Accessible Health Care Kiosks

On July 26, 2016—the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act—the Massachusetts Attorney General and the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) announced that health care kiosks made and operated by Pursuant Health, Inc. would be made accessible to blind and low-vision users.

These health care kiosks can be found throughout the country in stores such as Walmart and Safeway, and provide biometric assessments of vision, blood pressure, weight, and BMI as well as advice on pain management. Users can read information on their health risks and recommendations for topics to bring up with their physician. They can also have this information sent to them via email.

While these kiosks are a valuable resource, especially in communities where people do not always see a doctor regularly, blind and low-vision individuals were not able to get the full benefit of them.

In the agreement, Pursuant Health committed to making these kiosks and their website accessible. This will include reprogramming the kiosks to provide audio prompts and “hot spots” on the screen that will help blind users navigate more easily. Pursuant Health also made payments to the Attorney General’s office and the NFB totaling $95,000. These funds will be used to improve access for persons with disabilities.

Want to Learn More?

Accessibility in the Healthcare Industry: Impact, Legal Risk, and the Path to Compliance

This free on-demand webinar features SSB CEO Tim Springer and Chief Accessibility Officer Jonathan Avila, joined by attorney David McDowell of Morrison & Foerster LLP to discuss:

  • What types of healthcare technologies are being targeted with legal actions
  • The results of structured negotiation in the healthcare industry
  • Why accessibility requirements won’t change even if/when the ACA is repealed
  • What it means to be WCAG 2.0 compliant (in non-techy speak)
  • And more!

Read More and Access the Webinar Resources

[i] https://dredf.org/2016/02/10/nfb-disability-advocates-charge-federal-health-agency-civil-rights-violations/