DOJ demands CVS MinuteClinic improve accessibility for deaf patients in new settlement

The unnamed individual alleged that MinuteClinic, which provides some care services within retail pharmacies, failed to provide requested American Sign Language interpretation for her medical appointments. An investigation conducted by US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha’s office found that this patient was not able to communicate effectively with health personnel during her medical appointments.

The company did not admit any wrongdoing, but MinuteClinic will have to pay $5,000 to the complainant.

Cunha’s office also found that CVS MinuteClinic’s website directed hearing-impaired patients to contact a patient support line in order to obtain an ASL interpreter for care visits. On at least six other occasions, when individuals called that number to request an ASL interpreter for an upcoming appointment, representatives who answered the phone did not assist them with scheduling an interpreter, the investigation found.

Cunha said providers, including MinuteClinic have an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act to eliminate obstacles to access care for those with disabilities.

The ADA prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of a public accommodation,” the settlement said. “Discrimination includes failing to take such steps as necessary to ensure that no individual with a disability is excluded, denied services, segregated, or otherwise treated differently than any other individual because of the absence of auxiliary aids and services.”

CVS “expressly denies” that it has violated the ADA, according to the settlement agreement. A spokesperson from CVS, which is based in Woonsocket, could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to the settlement agreement, MinuteClinic will need to revise its policies and procedures for requesting, providing, and tracking requests for qualified interpreters at all of its MinuteClinic locations.

Staff will be required to go through training on the new policies, and the company will have to post notices at its locations and on its website to inform patients of the methods to request auxiliary aids and services, which will have to be free of charge, the settlement agreement said.

“Interactions with health care providers as we make crucial decisions about treatment and care are among the most personal interactions we have in life, said Cunha in a statement Tuesday. “And the most basic part of that interaction is being able to communicate effectively with your health care provider.”

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.