The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) takes on racial and ethnic health disparities using an intersectional approach that addresses the numerous factors that may impede a person’s access to care, including age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, language, immigration status, and socioeconomic status. People For the American Way and PFAW’s African American Ministers In Action are among the national organizations who’ve joined state and local allies in supporting HEAA. You can download our letter here.
Dear Members of Congress,
Each year our nation loses $93 billion in avoidable health care costs and $175 billion due to premature deaths stemming directly from racial, ethnic, and other health inequities. Each of these dollars has a human story behind it, such as an African American sickle cell patient encountering bias and discrimination in the Emergency Department, a person with disabilities being unable to find a qualified physician with accessible facilities in her neighborhood, or parents being unable to communicate with their child’s doctor because of a language barrier.
Therefore, as organizations committed to achieving health equity for all, we call on Congress to take immediate action to ensure that each person in the United States has the opportunity to attain their full health potential. This mission unites our diverse organizations and is the shared goal of millions of health and social justice advocates, patients, and providers across the country.
We believe improving access to care, quality of care, and individual- and population-level outcomes is impossible unless we directly address the intersecting structural, social and economic factors that influence health. These factors include racism and other forms of systematic oppression, that perpetuate health inequities based on people’s age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, language, immigration status and socioeconomic status. Members of Congress must actively work to pass legislation, such as the Health Equity and Accountability Act, that directly targets the factors that underlie health inequities. Congress must also use its oversight authority to help ensure that our government succeeds in the goal of eliminating racial, ethnic, and other health inequities.
Specifically, we request that you:
- Center the needs of racial and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable and underserved populations in all health legislation: All bills addressing health issues must account for the needs of communities that experience inequities. As Congress tackles health care quality, access, and cost, it must invite input and knowledge from a wide diversity of voices. Policy design, funding priorities, and program implementation must be informed by and explicitly tackle the day-to-day barriers people experiencing health inequities face, including racism and other social and economic determinants of health. At the same time, we must continue to work to develop a health system that values the individual patient and seeks to improve each person’s experience of care and their health outcomes.
- Protect and build on federally-funded health insurance programs and assistance for safety net providers: Congress must defend and strengthen the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which collectively provide coverage for over 117 million Americans. It must oppose any legislation or administrative actions, including budget cuts and discriminatory policy riders, that run counter to the purpose of these programs. In addition, Congress must support our nation’s safety net providers, such as community health centers, rural health clinics, community mental health centers, tribal and urban Indian health programs, safety-net hospitals, reproductive health centers, and community-based providers, to ensure access to high quality and affordable care.
- Provide oversight to ensure the government is fulfilling its obligations to ensure equal access to health care for all: We are deeply disturbed by numerous recent actions the current administration has taken, including prioritizing religious exemptions over civil rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services; attacking immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers; cutting funding for vital insurance coverage enrollment outreach; seeking to dismantle nondiscrimination protections for transgender individuals; and signaling its contempt for the needs of people of color and other vulnerable groups throughout its policymaking and strategic planning activities. Members of Congress must use their oversight powers to hold administration officials accountable for these and other actions that harm our collective efforts to achieve a healthier nation for all.
None of us—not our organizations and certainly not our elected lawmakers—can afford to stand by and watch while millions of people struggle to get the health care they need, when they need it. All of us—no matter who we are and where we live—are members of families, communities, and the fabric of our nation. Congress must act to make health equity not only a priority, but a reality for all.