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Melanie Fontes-Rainer Appointed Director of the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights

U.S Department of Health and Human Services Director Xavier Becerra has formally sworn in Melanie Fontes Rainer as the new Director of the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  Fontes Rainer will lead the department’s enforcement of federal civil rights and HIPAA compliance and will direct the department’s policy and strategic initiatives.

Fontes Rainer previously served as Acting Director, replacing Lisa J. Pino who left the post in July 2022 after 11 months as Director. Prior to joining OCR, Fontes Rainer served as Counselor to Secretary Becerra and provided strategy guidance on issues pertaining to civil rights, patient privacy, reproductive health, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), competition in healthcare, equity, and the private insurance market. In that role, she led the implementation of the No Surprises Act, which has helped to improve the transparency of medical billing and save consumers money. Fontes Rainer sits on the White House Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, and recently advised the Secretary and the Administration on how best to respond to the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Fontes Rainer has also served as the Secretary’s designee on the White House Competition Council, leading cross-cutting Department work and a whole-of-Government approach on price transparency, costs, and competition to benefit American consumers.

Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Fontes Rainer served as Special Assistant to the Attorney General and Chief Health Care Advisor at the California Department of Justice. In that role, she led a national team to save the Affordable Care Act and protect healthcare coverage for more than 133 million Americans. In her role as Special Assistant, Fontes Rainer assisted with the creation of the Health Care Rights and Access – a new office devoted to proactively advancing laws pertaining to health care civil rights, privacy, competition, and consumer protection. Fontes Rainer has also served in the U.S. Senate as a Senior Aide and Women’s Policy Director to Chair Patty Murray on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Budget Committees, where she helped pass several transformative health care laws, including the 21st Century Cures Act, Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, among other laws and led the Senate’s work on the Affordable Care Act, reproductive rights, and gender equity.

“Melanie has devoted her entire professional career to public service and has worked tirelessly to ensure that health care is accessible, affordable, and available to all, no matter where you live or who you are,” said Secretary Becerra. “As one of my longtime senior aides, I can say with certainty that Melanie will vigorously protect and enforce the healthcare and civil rights of Americans across the country. Melanie’s commitment and expertise are vital to implementing the health and human services priorities of the Biden-Harris Administration as we work to ensure families across the country know that we have their back.”

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Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.