Justice in Aging Rejects Ruthless Utilitarian Policies that Devalue the Lives of Older Adults

At Justice in Aging we believe care must be provided without consideration of age or age-related criteria, including criteria that cannot be operationalized without using age as a proxy. Care must be based on individualized assessments that consider an individual’s prospects for recovery and allocate treatment to help the person survive rather than focusing allocation on “number of years of life” or “quality of life” factors.

Recent guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services reminded providers, states, and others that discrimination on the basis of disability is impermissible. DHHS issued the guidance after calls from disability advocates that bias be eliminated in the rationing of health care and accommodations during this crisis, and Justice in Aging strongly supports these efforts.

In addition, older adults face bias that is unique to aging. Importantly, the health care civil rights protections enjoyed by people with disabilities stems from Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, a statute that protects older adults from age discrimination as well. OCR’s bulletin applies to older adults, but additional guidance is necessary to make clear that states and health care providers responding to the COVID-19 crisis are prohibited from discriminating against older adults.

In times of shortage, it is critical that we make clear that all people – of all abilities and ages – are valued and that no group or population is expendable. When providers are making life and death decisions about how to allocate the resources needed to combat this public health crisis that threatens us all, they must make those decisions based on individual assessment of survival. We cannot accept anything short of that. See our letter to California’s Health and Human Services Agency asking the agency to modify its guidance to more explicitly address discrimination based on age.

Complaints of Denial of COVID 19 Healthcare Due to Age to Office of Civil Rights

If you believe a policy or practice related to COVID-19 discriminates against older adults or people with disabilities, the DHHS Office of Civil Rights wants to hear from you. It is prioritizing complaints related to COVID-19. Complaints can be filed at here. Make clear the complaint is COVID-19 related.

We would also appreciate it if you would send a copy to us as well so that we can monitor the situation and use complaints to support our advocacy efforts: rbailey@justiceinaging.org

Katrina Cohens

About Katrina Cohens

Katrina Cohens is based in Justice in Aging’s Washington, DC office and serves as the Database Manager.