Advocating for Equal Access to Healthcare & COVID-19 Testing
On June 18, disability advocates filed a federal civil rights complaint against Nebraska’s COVID-19 TestNebraska program. The complaint isn’t a lawsuit—it’s a formal charge to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) that the state is violating federal anti-discrimination laws. The OCR has been taking steps all across the country to stop state programs that left out people with disabilities in pandemic plans and programs.
The complaint outlines examples of Nebraskans unable to access TestNebraska, including Nebraskans who are blind, who do not drive due to a developmental disability, and who do not drive due to age related disabilities. In the press release announcing the complaint, CEO Eric Evans said, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve been interviewing Nebraskans across the state who have been left behind without any plan. Other states have modified their testing to include people with disabilities. Nebraska has waited long enough and we hope today’s filing pushes the state to finally start protecting everyone from COVID-19.”
As of November 2020, no further action has been taken to make TestNebraska accessible for people with disabilities.
Discriminatory Care Rationing
At the beginning of the pandemic, some states were looking to health care rationing - or restricting some peoples' access to health services due to limited resource. This has extremely negative implications for members of the disability community
For a quick look at our efforts to prevent discriminatory care rationing in our state, view the brief video below. The information in this video is also available in an informational packet that includes links to resources.
The ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act include non-discrimination requirements for medical treatment. Still, advocates around the country are confronting dated policies on emergency resource allocation that allow people with disabilities to be denied access to ventilators. We sent a letter then a follow-up letter to Governor Ricketts and other state officials to ensure care rationing would not occur in our state.
On April 29, 2020, the Nebraska DHHS answered our calls for action in a memo to healthcare providers which affirmed that anti-discrimination laws are in full force during COVID-19. The memo encouraged medical professionals to read this Office of Civil Rights bulletin.