Thursday, May 23, 2024

Speaking With One Voice Congressional TriCaucus Declares: “COVERAGE IS NOT ENOUGH”

Members of the Congressional TriCaucus – comprised of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus – held a news conference today to introduce The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 which outlines their priorities for healthcare reform—particularly the need to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities that exist under the current healthcare system.

The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009, is designed to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and address a number of other issues important to communities of color while improving our national healthcare system for all Americans.

“Today over 47 million people lack health insurance in America and although racial and ethnic minorities account for about one third of U.S. population, they account for more than half of the uninsured,” said Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Barbara Lee (CA-09). “The Congressional TriCaucus stands together and speaks with one voice to demand health care reform NOW, and to demand an end to the factors that perpetuate racial and ethnic health disparities in this country.”

The TriCaucus is committed to healthcare reform that ensures that expands coverage to all Americans while also reducing the serious health disparities that disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities.

“Healthcare is a right and not a privilege. Every man, woman and child deserves a dignified and healthy life. As ours is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and increasingly diverse nation, legislation must fully recognize and address health disparities,” said Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), Chair of Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). “Asians and Pacific Islanders have much at stake as approximately one-third of our communities live in linguistic isolation, and have higher rates of certain preventable diseases, such as hepatitis B and tuberculosis. I am confident that President Obama and congressional leadership will seriously consider healthcare disparities as part of this vital debate. CAPAC, as a member of the Tri-Caucus and the voice of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Congress, is committed to working toward health reform for all.”

“In order to move this nation forward, we must make sure that any reform to our health care system takes into account the health care disparities that exist,” said Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-12), Chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). “Twenty-seven percent of Hispanics are likely to lack a usual health care provider, which is a key indicator to overall access of quality care and prevention. As the Latino community continues to grow, we need to address the challenges that we, and all minority communities face, to ensure that we improve our nation’s health overall.”

Among the other elements of healthcare reform members of the TriCaucus have identified as priorities are:

* A public health insurance option that is universal and includes mental and dental health services.

* Elevating the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health and strengthening the Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services.

* Addressing cultural and linguistic concerns such as credentialing for medical translators and ensuring adequate reimbursement for language and translation services.

* Healthcare provisions regarding clinical trials must also – whenever possible – include racial and ethnic diversity to find out effects on a broad range of groups.

“While I support all of the provisions in the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009, I firmly believe that any effort to eliminate health disparities must begin with a public health approach that integrates prevention and wellness across all health care services,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34), who is chair of the CHC Health Care Task Force. “Prevention works by saving lives and improving health outcomes, while saving money and leaving our families and communities stronger and more resilient.” “While eliminating uninsurance is critically important, we know that insurance status does not explain all of the health inequities that millions of Americans experience each year,” noted Congresswoman Donna Christensen (VI-At large), Co-Chair of the CBC Health and Wellness Task Force. “The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 addresses the root causes of health disparities, applies a sound public health approach to tackle a pressing public health challenge, and therefore must be a part of the health care reform bill.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 is a significant step in addressing the needs of our communities,” said Congresswoman Bordallo (GU-At Large), who serves as Chair of the Health Task Force of CAPAC. “This legislation will help in bringing equality in health care to Americans in the territories.”

A distinguishing issue that this Health Disparities Bill puts forth is the integration of community-centric health efforts into health reform.

“Access to culturally competent quality health care should be one of the most basic of all entitlements,” said Congressman Danny K. Davis (IL-07), who serves as co-chair of the CBC Health and Wellness Taskforce. “Expansion of community, migrant, family and rural health centers will help make this concept a reality.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus