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Eye-care providers would face civil fines under Justice Department ADA lawsuit proposal

The Justice Department is making headway as it looks to resolve a lawsuit against two major eye care providers, accusing both of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI
The Justice Department is making headway as it looks to resolve a lawsuit against two major eye care providers, accusing both of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The Justice Department is making headway as it looks to resolve a lawsuit against two eye care providers, accusing both of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The department filed a proposed consent decree Tuesday that would resolve the ongoing legal issues with Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Centers and American Vision Partners.

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Justice Department officials contend both companies violated the act by refusing to operate on patients who needed help getting out of their wheelchairs for surgery.

It accuses both companies of forcing patients needing assistance to pay for third parties for transportation.

"Medical providers routinely offer this type of assistance to patients who need help transferring from a wheelchair to an examination or surgical table for surgery and exams," the department said in a statement.

The consent decree would see both providers pay civil penalties of $50,000 and $950,000 to affected patients. They also would immediately end the discriminatory practice and re-train staff on the new policy.

Barnet Dulaney Perkins operates facilities in Arizona. American Vision Partners is one of the largest eye care providers in the United States, with operations across the southwest. It has partners in New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and Arizona, where it partnered with Barnet Dulaney Perkins.

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"The Americans with Disabilities Act requires health care providers to offer equal access to their services. Patients with disabilities must not be denied crucial medical services or forced to pay surcharges because they need transfer assistance. The Justice Department is fully committed to protecting the civil rights of individuals with disabilities to get the medical care they need," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

Neither company had immediate comment.

"This agreement reflects an important step in obtaining equal access to health care services for Arizonans with disabilities," U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona said in a statement.

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