Do the Final Nondiscrimination Rules for Group Health Plans Affect You?

Written by: PeopleKeep Team
Originally published on June 27, 2016. Last updated November 11, 2021.

On May 13, 2016, Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final ruling on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This section details non-discrimination in select group health plans. The new regulations outline changes to the list of protections under the law and will affect some businesses that offer employee health benefit plans. Although this ruling will not affect every business, it is important to know the facts so your group health plan remains in compliance.

HHS Ruling: The Major Changes

Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits the denial of health services in qualifying group health plans on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The new ruling extends these protections to gender identity and those that are transitioning. This means that persons must be regarded consistently with their own gender identity and cannot be denied services that would be otherwise provided to them.

This ruling also extends protection to those with English-Language deficiency. Specifically, it states that employers with qualifying group health plans “take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency, and are encouraged to develop language access plans.” Such employers are also required to post a notice of their assistance services on the homepage of their website.

Do These Changes Affect Your Business?

Most privately held businesses will not be affected by this ruling. These rules will affect your business’ group health plan if it “receive[s] federal financial assistance or [is] administered by certain governmental entities, including an administrator of the marketplace.” Businesses included on this list include, but are not limited to, “hospitals, health clinics, health insurance issuers, state Medicaid agencies, community health centers, physician’s practices and home health care agencies.”

It is important to note that if wellness programs, health clinics, or long-term care coverage are included in your group health plan, they are also subject to these regulations.

What Can You do to Remain in Compliance?

Most of these regulations go into effect on July 18, 2016; however, some of the more complicated portions that might involve the re-designing of a group health plan extend the compliance date to January 1, 2017.

Be sure to read the full final ruling from HHS in order to fully understand how these changes affect your business and what you can do to make sure that your group health plan remains in compliance. If you would like assistance with the required posted notice regarding language accessibility, HHS provides a sample on their website.


The new HHS ruling on Section 1557 extends non-discrimination practices to include gender identity, as well as language accessibility. While these changes will not affect all group health plans, it is important to understand the regulations so that you may make changes if necessary. Make sure to reference the full ruling for further details.

Does the new ruling affect your business? If so, what changes are you making to remain in compliance? Let us know in the comments below!

Originally published on June 27, 2016. Last updated November 11, 2021.


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