Trump Rollback of Disability Rules Can Make Doctor’s Visits Painstaking
Patients with disabilities cope with rollback of regulations to make medical treatment more accessible
By Rachel Bluth, Kaiser Health News on November 1, 2018
Going to the doctor’s office can feel so routine. You sit in the waiting room, fill out the paperwork, get measured and hop onto the exam table.
But medical appointments for patients with disabilities require navigating a tricky obstacle course, full of impediments that leave them feeling awkward and could result in substandard care.
Despite laws that require ramps and wider doors for access, many health care providers don’t have scales that can accommodate wheelchairs, or adjustable exam tables for patients who can’t get up on one by themselves.
The Affordable Care Act was set to update standards for accessible medical treatment within the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is enforced by the Justice Department. But the Trump administration stopped action on this change late last year as part of its sweeping effort to roll back regulations across the federal government.
The result is that movie theaters and laundromats have to be accessible to all people, but important aspects of the medical industry do not, said Megan Morris, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Colorado who has studied patients with disabilities and their access to health care.
The ACA directed a federal panel, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, to take steps to close this gap by issuing standards for determining what medical equipment could be deemed “accessible.” Their report was finalized in January 2017, just before President Barack Obama left office.
But the DOJ’s decision in December not to update enforcement accordingly reinforces the disparities in how people are treated, said patients and disability rights advocates.
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