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Analysis

HHS Proposed Rule Would End Referral Mandate for Faith-based Providers

By John Commins  
   January 17, 2020

The proposed rule removes an Obama-era referral policy that the Trump administration says discriminates against religious providers.

The Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled a proposed rule that would remove a mandate that faith-based providers refer patients to other providers for services they won't offer for religious reasons.  

"President Trump's administration is taking historic action to protect religious social service providers from discrimination in federal regulations," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a media release.

"Americans of faith play an essential role in providing healthcare and human services to so many vulnerable people and communities, and President Trump is dedicated to removing every unfair barrier that stands in the way of this important work," he said.

The proposed rule, released Thursday to coincide with Religious Freedom Day, removes what the Trump administration claims is a discriminatory Obama-era policy that requires religious providers of social services, but not other providers of social services, to make referrals.

HHS is one of nine federal departments, including the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, that were named in a Trump executive order to remove what it said were unfair barriers in federal policies that singled out faith-based groups.

The HHS proposed rule said the "burdens" imposed on faith-based organizations by the Obama administration were not required by law and were imposed only on religious social service providers.

"They are in tension with recent Supreme Court precedent regarding nondiscrimination against religious organizations," HHS said.

The proposed rule would also eliminate the requirement that religious organizations post notices of referral mandates, which is not required of secular organizations. 

"By compelling religious organizations, but not secular organizations, to post special notices and make referrals, the alternative-provider requirements placed burdens unequally on religious organizations and cast unwarranted suspicion on them," HHS said.

The proposed rule also mandates that HHS will not discriminate against faith-based organizations when selecting award recipients.

“Americans of faith play an essential role in providing healthcare and human services to so many vulnerable people and communities, and President Trump is dedicated to removing every unfair barrier that stands in the way of this important work.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

HHS is one of nine federal departments that were named in a Trump executive order to remove what it said were unfair barriers in federal policies that singled out faith-based groups.

The proposed rule would also eliminate the requirement that religious organizations post notices of referral mandates, which is not required of secular organizations.

The proposed rule also mandates that HHS will not discriminate against faith-based organizations when selecting award recipients.


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