HHS Appoints New Office For Civil Rights Director Melanie Fontes Rainer

The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Director Xavier Becerra has formally sworn in Melanie Fontes Rainer as Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). As of Wednesday, September 12, 2022, Fontes Rainer will lead the OCR in its duties to enforce federal civil rights, conscience protections, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) Rules, which protect Americans’ fundamental civil rights and medical privacy. 

Melanie Fontes Rainer has been officially sworn in as the Director of the Office for Civil Rights by Xavier Becerra, Director of the United States’ Department of Health and Human Services (OCR). As of September 12, 2022, Fontes Rainer will be in charge of the OCR, and will be responsible for carrying out its responsibilities to uphold federal civil rights laws, conscience rights, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules, which safeguard Americans’ basic civil rights and medical privacy.

Fontes Rainer most recently worked as Secretary Becerra’s counselor, where she dealt with issues related to civil rights, patient privacy, reproductive health, the Affordable Care Act, competition in the healthcare industry, consumer protection, and private insurance markets. She oversaw the No Surprises Act’s implementation during this period, as well as cross-cutting efforts on privacy, competition, and transparency. Additionally, she is a member of the White House Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access. Most recently, this group advised the Secretary and Administration on how to effectively respond to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris administration, Fontes Rainer worked for the California Department of Justice as the Special Assistant to the Attorney General and Chief Health Advisor, where she contributed to defending the Affordable Care Act by carrying the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. During this period, Melanie assisted in the establishment of a brand-new office that was the first of its kind and focused on health care access and rights in California. Melanie oversaw the work on a number of ground-breaking settlements, such as the Sutter Health settlement, which encouraged competition, openness, and lower costs in California. She also oversaw the work on settlements pertaining to patient privacy and the numerous, nationwide settlements against the opioid distributors and manufacturers who contributed to the opioid epidemic.

“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,” states HHS Secretary Xavier 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.”