The “meaningful access” rule, effective July 18, 2016, is intended to clarify parts of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prevents discrimination based on disability for certain health programs and activities.
According to the updated rule, if healthcare providers that receive financial assistance from the federal government provide services via electronic and information technology (EIT), those services must be accessible to people with disabilities.
The “meaningful access” rule applies both to the provider’s website as well as any other EIT used to interact with the public. Because most healthcare providers receive federal financial assistance in the form of Medicare, the “meaningful access” rule has broad implications for the U.S. healthcare industry.
As of July 1, 2017, all Medicaid managed care programs must have EIT that is “readily accessible,” which is to say that it complies with modern accessibility standards. The new regulation explicitly mentions two examples of such standards: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA.