Press Release

Gillibrand, Butler Announce Legislation To Address Racial Disparities In Health Care Access

Jun 21, 2024

Black Americans Are More Likely To Suffer From Diabetes, Heart Disease, And Other Serious Chronic Health Problems   

New Bill Would Help Provide High-Quality And Affordable Preventative Health Care In Medically Underserved Communities Across The Country

Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Laphonza Butler (D-CA) announced the introduction of their Health Equity Innovation Act, legislation to fight racial disparities in health outcomes by expanding access to preventative health care in underserved communities. The bill would establish a new grant program to provide federal funding to faith- and community-based organizations located in medically underserved areas. Grants would help cover the cost of providing preventative care – including free or low-cost health screenings, vaccinations, family planning services, and mental health services – hiring community health workers, and expanding capacity. Gillibrand and Butler are calling for $50 million for this program to be included in the Fiscal Year 2025 government funding bill. 

Astronomical health care costs and a chronic shortage of health care providers in Black communities mean that too many Black New Yorkers have difficulty getting routine checkups, vaccinations, and other critical preventative care,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Local community health centers and faith organizations fill the gaps. By providing accessible and affordable services, they are building healthier communities and helping to end racial disparities in health outcomes. I’m introducing the Health Equity Innovation Act to make sure faith- and community-based organizations have the funding they need to continue doing this important work, and I look forward to getting this bill passed.” 

“This legislation would broaden access to essential health care by providing communities with both culturally and linguistically appropriate options for health care services and screenings,” said Senator Butler. “There are clear health inequities people from marginalized communities face, and this bill would help bridge that gap and improve health outcomes.”

“The introduction of the Health Equity Innovation Act of 2024 (HEIA) to the Senate marks a significant step forward, providing necessary funding for community and faith-based organizations like ours,” said Debra Fraser-Howze, Founder & Board Chair of Choose Healthy Life. “Choose Healthy Life and other trusted organizations have proven to be highly effective in delivering much-needed health screenings and connections to medical services in hard-to-reach communities serving as a viable extension of the health care delivery system. The HEIA will expand our capacity to connect underserved communities to life-saving care. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Sen. Gillibrand for her leadership in bringing this crucial legislation to the Senate. Together, we are all committed to addressing health disparities, and this landmark bill will help to sustain our work and empower us to have an even greater impact.”

Black Americans suffer disproportionately from a variety of health conditions, including asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts, and the Black infant mortality rate is higher than that of any other group. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black individuals were hospitalized and died at higher rates than white Americans. These disparities are caused in part by a longstanding lack of access to high-quality health care in Black communities. 

The Health Equity Innovation Act would address this lack of access by awarding grants to faith- and community-based organizations with a proven track record of addressing health inequities. Eligible organizations would be located in federally designated Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) or Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), geographic areas and populations that have limited access to primary care services. Senators Gillibrand and Butler are calling on Senate appropriators to include $50 million in funding for a Health Equity Innovation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2025 spending bill. 

Gillibrand is a longstanding advocate for racial equality in health care. Notably, she is a cosponsor of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a package of 13 bills, including her Moms Matter Act, that would help address the Black maternal mortality crisis as well as racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health care. The legislation would invest in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes; diversify the perinatal workforce; extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods; promote maternal vaccinations, and more.