U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, alongside a group of colleagues led by U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), announced comprehensive legislation to create a more equitable health care system and address health disparities for underserved communities. The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) would address health inequities among racial and ethnic minorities, women, the LGBTQ+ community, rural populations, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities throughout New York.
“The coronavirus pandemic has devastated historically underserved communities and underscored the importance of equal access to health care for all,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Yet, for far too many Americans health care remains an unaffordable, inaccessible privilege. The HEAA will make critical investments to address health disparities and help to ensure equitable access to affordable and quality health care – regardless of race, gender, zip code, or immigration status. I thank Senator Hirono for her leadership on this bill and in the fight for a more equitable health care system.”
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated health disparities in communities across the country, particularly in communities of color and low income and rural populations. Due to systemic barriers, these underserved communities in New York experienced worse health outcomes and difficulty accessing health information, education, services and coverage even before the pandemic. The HEAA would create a roadmap to help dismantle these barriers and ensure the health care system meets the needs of all Americans. The legislation was supported in the Senate by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) and introduced in the House by Representative Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL).
Specifically, the HEAA would:
- Expand access to health care including for immigrant and rural communities. The legislation includes Senator Hirono’s Covering Our FAS Allies Act, which restores Medicaid eligibility for COFA citizens.
- Improve care for underserved communities through enhanced language access services, provider training on cultural competency, and investments in diversifying the health workforce.
- Dismantle barriers and fund programs to support mental, infant, maternal, sexual, and reproductive health for marginalized and underserved individuals and communities.
- Increase federal resources to address diseases that disproportionately impact minority communities, and engage the entire federal government in building and funding strategies to address social determinants of health.
Full text of the bill can be found here.