Congress considers health equity bill supported by more than 300 advocacy groups

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL), introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA), that aims to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities and expand access to coverage.

The bill, first introduced in 2003, is endorsed by more than 60 stakeholder groups, including the vice president of the NAACP, and leaders for advocacy groups representing a variety of issues from aging populations to health issues affecting Southeast Asian communities, immigrant health, Black maternal health, and more.

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act will reduce racial and ethnic health inequities, address the maternal mortality crisis, strengthen health data collection & research, expand access to mental health care, target gun violence, improve language access in health care, diversify our health care workforce, and so much more,” said Congresswoman Kelly in a news release. “I am proud to lead this legislation on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus to improve healthcare access and services for every single American.”

HEAA builds on the gains made under the Affordable Care Act and lays out a vision of additional investments Congress should make to enhance the health and well-being of systemically marginalized and underserved communities. The legislation is supported by over 300 racial equity and health equity organizations , researchers, provider groups, and community-based organizations.

The Health Equity Coalition for Chronic Disease (HECCD) is one of those organizations. In a letter to congressional leaders, the coalition said the “bill provides an overall blueprint for progress towards a more equitable health care system.”

The coalition specifically praised three tenets of the bill, including expanding health care coverage by removing citizenship barriers, focusing on solutions for multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes, lung disease, HIV, sickle cell disease and obesity, and increasing the number of health care professionals from communities of color.

“HEEA represents a meaningful commitment from our leaders on Capitol Hill to address the systemic issues perpetuating negative health outcomes for people of color across the country. For example, the comprehensive bill will target social determinants of health that continuously put communities of color at disproportionately high risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity,” said the coalition’s co-chairs Tammy Boyd, Dr. Elena Rios, and Dr. Gary A. Puckrein in a statement.

The group said in a news release that passage of the bill would be a “historic step forward for marginalized Americans.”

Since 2003, HEAA has been introduced by the Congressional Tri-Caucus, comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Rep. Kelly is leading the legislation this year in her capacity as CBC Health Braintrust Chair.

Several of those endorsing the legislation pointed out how the Covid-19 brought racial disparities in healthcare to light.

“As our Covid-19 needs assessment report underscored, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the racial health equity gaps of this nation,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League in a news release. “This legislation addresses These gaps directly, including maternal mortality for Black women, mental health challenges for our youth, gun violence in our communities, and access to broadband internet and devices in our homes, and other social determinants of health in our society.”

Photo: Peter Pencil, Getty Images


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