Your Right to Nursing Home Care Without Discrimination


Your Right To Care Without Discrimination

Federal and Georgia laws prohibit discrimination against residents or people seeking care on the basis of race, national origin, age, religion, sex, color or handicap. This Fact Sheet summarizes some of your civil rights and explains how to file a complaint if you have experienced discrimination.

Discrimination Based On Handicap

People seeking nursing home care often find it difficult to gain admission to a facility if they need a lot of care, require specialized services or have certain types of medical conditions. This type of discrimination is illegal.

Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits Medicare/ Medicaid approved nursing homes from discriminating against you if you are handicapped. Under this law, you are considered handicapped if you have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits your ability to care for yourself. Included among these impairments are walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing or learning to perform other major life activities. Some examples of handicapping conditions are: AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, blindness, cancer, diabetes, deafness/ hearing impairment, heart disease, and MRSA. MRSA, which stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, is an antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus infection.

However, nursing homes can refuse to admit people who need more care than they are licensed or certified to provide.

Discrimination Based On Age

The federal Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits Medicare/ Medicaid approved nursing homes from discriminating against you on the basis of your age. While most nursing homes do not discriminate against people because they are too old, some facilities prefer not to admit younger applicants. This type of discrimination is also illegal.

Discrimination Based On Race, Color or National Origin

Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits Medicare/Medicaid approved nursing homes from discriminating against you based on your race, color or national origin.

What should you do if you feel your civil rights have been violated?

If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, age, sex, handicap or religion by a Medicare/ Medicaid approved facility, you may file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. The Office for Civil Rights is a division of the United Stated Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It is responsible for making sure that all organizations receiving federal funds from DHHS comply with civil rights laws.

Your complaint must be in writing. Be sure to include the following information:

Your name, address and telephone number. You must sign your name to the complaint letter.

Name and address of the facility you believe discriminated against you.

How, why and when you believe you were discriminated against.

Any other relevant information.

Financial Discrimination

Current laws do not prohibit nursing homes from discriminating against people seeking admission based on their source of payment. Nursing homes prefer private paying residents because the payment rate can be higher.

Georgia and federal law protects people who are in nursing homes from being discriminated against based on their source of payment. If your nursing home is giving you less care or services because your care is being paid for by Medicare or Medicaid, it is violating your rights. In Georgia, this type of discrimination is investigated by the Georgia Office of Regulatory Services.

For more information please contact the Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services Program office nearest you.

For Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties, call Atlanta Legal Aid Society: 404-524-5811

For all other counties, call Georgia Legal Services Program: 1-800-498-9469 (toll free)

For Seniors age 60 and older, call the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline: 1-888-257-9519 (toll free)

Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Last Revised: May 2003

Last Review and Update: May 24, 2003