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Office for Civil Rights

Collage of people over the map of the United StatesFederal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, together protect your fundamental rights of nondiscrimination and health information privacy. Civil Rights help to protect you from unfair treatment or discrimination, because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex (gender), or religion. The Privacy Rule protects the privacy of your health information; it says who can look at and receive your health information, and also gives you specific rights over that information.  In addition, the Patient Safety Act and Rule establish a voluntary reporting system to enhance the data available to assess and resolve patient safety and health care quality issues and provides confidentiality protections for patient safety concerns.

Civil Rights


Privacy Rights

OCR helps to protect you from discrimination in certain healthcare and social service programs. Some of these programs may include:

  • Hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes
  • Medicaid and Medicare agencies
  • Welfare programs
  • Day care centers
  • Doctors’ offices and pharmacies
  • Children’s health programs
  • Alcohol and drug treatment centers
  • Adoption agencies
  • Mental health and developmental disabilities agencies

Learn more about civil rights>>


By enforcing the Privacy Rule, OCR helps to protect the privacy of your health information held by health insurers and certain health care providers and health insurers. Some of these providers and insurers may include:

  • Doctors and nurses
  • Pharmacies
  • Hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes
  • Health insurance companies
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
  • Employer group health plans
  • Certain government programs that pay for health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid

OCR also enforces the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Act and Rule.

Learn more about health information privacy>>

What Can You Do If You Believe Your Rights Are Violated?

You can file a civil rights, health information privacy, or patient safety confidentiality complaint with OCR, or someone can file for you. If you want to file a complaint, you should file it within 180 days of when you believe your rights were violated. Learn more about filing a complaint>>

What Does OCR Do To Protect Your Rights?

  • OCR teaches health and social service workers about the civil rights, health information privacy, and patient safety confidentiality laws that they must follow.
  • OCR educates communities about civil rights and health information privacy rights.
  • OCR investigates civil rights, health information privacy and patient safety confidentiality complaints to find out if there is discrimination or a violation of law and takes action to correct problems.