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Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination in health care based on sex, race, color, national origin, age, and disability. Section 1557 also prohibits sexual harassment and sexual assault in health care. State and local laws may also help protect patients from sex discrimination in health care.

What health care providers are covered by Section 1557?

  • • Hospitals, or doctors’ offices that receive federal funding.
  • • Most health care plans, including most employer-sponsored plans.
  • • Health insurance plans sold in the ACA marketplaces.
  • • Health programs run by the federal government. These include Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Indian Health Service (IHS).

If you are a patient receiving healthcare, you may be facing sex discrimination if a healthcare provider…

  • • Refuses to treat someone because they are transgender
  • • Refuses to treat someone because they have had an abortion
  • • Refuses to provide care to a newborn with parents in a same-sex relationship because of sex stereotypes that marriage    should be between a man and a woman
  • • Denies a person counseling on the full-range of birth control options because of stereotypes about the sexuality of a particular racial or ethnic group
  • • Dismisses a person’s medical concerns because of stereotypes that this person is more emotional and therefore may be “exaggerating” their symptoms
  • • Sexually harasses or assaults their patients.


If you DO NOT fit any of the above categories, here are other resources you may find helpful.

If you DO fit one of the above categories, we can help connect you with attorneys.

Here is how it works:

1. Fill out this form. Here is more information about the form and our process. Please note that we will not see your form unless you answer all required questions and click “submit” on the last page.   

2. If your situation involves sex discrimination or harassment when trying to get health care, we will send you the names of three attorneys in the Legal Network for Gender Equity who work in your state (even if they don’t live in your state).

3. You are responsible for reaching out to the attorneys to set up a call or meeting.  

4. Attorneys in our network do a first consultation for free with anyone coming through our network. At that consultation you can talk about what happened to you and discuss your options.   

5. After the free first call or meeting, you may want to hire the attorney. Some of the attorneys may offer free or low-cost services. 

6. You can look here for additional resources.   

7. If you need help filling out the form or have questions, please contact us at [email protected] or call us at (202) 319-3053. 

If you or someone you know has faced discrimination in health care, there are various legal options available. You can go directly to court to stop acts of discrimination and get compensation for any injuries you suffered. You can also file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.


Possible remedies and deadlines to keep in mind

  • Internal claim-denial appeal: You may want to appeal a denial of your insurance claim. Check your insurance policies to see if there is a deadline for the appeal.
  • OCR or other administrative complaint: You may want to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to report a violation of Section 1557. An OCR complaint must be filed within 180 days of the date on which you learned that the discrimination occurred. You may also wish to file a complaint with your state insurance commissioner. The procedures and deadlines for doing so vary by state.

Lawsuit: You may also want to sue. The deadline for bringing a lawsuit to report a violation of Section 1557 varies by the court and the claims involved. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have a Section 1557 claim or other legal claims against the health care provider and the deadlines.



The Legal Network for Gender Equity and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund are housed at and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund, LLC.

By providing this information to you, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the National Women’s Law Center Fund (NWLCF) are not becoming your attorneys.  Filling in the form also does not mean that NWLC or NWLCF is becoming your attorney.  Providing information to NWLC or NWLCF will not create an attorney-client relationship unless NWLC/NWLCF expressly agrees to represent you.

The Legal Network for Gender Equity provides the names of attorneys for informational purposes only. By providing contact information of attorneys, the Legal Network for Gender Equity is not endorsing, approving, vouching for, or recommending the attorneys or groups listed. We cannot guarantee that any of the attorneys will agree to represent you or that if they do, you will have a positive result in your case. And it is important to note that just because an attorney was successful in other cases does not guarantee the same outcome for your case.

We will keep the information you provide in the form confidential to the extent allowed by law.

Please use the form to request assistance.  Please do not come to our office to request assistance; we do not conduct in-person interviews.

If you have questions, please email us at [email protected] or call (202) 319-3053.

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