U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA), comprehensive legislation that provides a roadmap to eliminate racial and ethnic health inequities. Building on the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, HEAA lays out additional investments Congress must make to enhance the health and well-being of systematically marginalized and underserved communities, address health disparities, and ensure access to high quality and affordable health care for all. Companion legislation was introduced in the House earlier this year by Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02).
“Stunning disparities in access to and delivery of quality, affordable health care have long affected marginalized and underserved communities,” said Sen. Booker. “I am proud to be leading this effort to ensure that every one has access to the care they deserve. This legislation contains comprehensive, commonsense, and critical provisions that must be taken to ensure equitable health care and coverage is offered to communities that have been neglected for far too long. It will help address poor health outcomes, increase the availability of mental health services, address diseases that disproportionately impact minorities, and strengthen our health infrastructure — all of which will help make sure quality health care is a right, not a privilege.”
“Dr. King once said that of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane. That is why I am proud to join my friend Senator Booker in introducing the Health Equity and Accountability Act, which will take important steps to ensure all of our communities are healthy and thriving,” said Sen. Reverend Warnock. “This is an issue near and dear to my heart. As a pastor, I hear from countless parishioners about their struggles to access affordable and equitable health care. That’s why it’s so important we pass this legislation and enhance the health and well-being of underserved communities and ensure access to high quality and affordable health care for all,” concluded Sen. Reverend Warnock.
“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. “I am proud to have led this bill on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus in the House and am grateful to Senator Booker for introducing this bill in the Senate. Today we are one step closer to achieving health equity and eliminating disparities.”
HEAA is composed of ten titles as detailed below:
· Title I – Data Collection and Reporting: Strengthens the collection of data for historically underrepresented populations to effectively evaluate health disparities and inform health equity policies.
· Title II – Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Health and Health Care: Ensures culturally and linguistically appropriate health and health care to reduce disparities in health for non-English speakers.
· Title III – Health Workforce Diversity: Improves health workforce diversity to ensure providers are representative of the patients that they serve.
· Title IV – Improving Health Care Access and Quality: Addresses systemic barriers to quality care for vulnerable populations by expanding coverage, improving access to health care facilities, innovating in care delivery, and creating health empowerment zones.
· Title V – Improving Health Outcomes for Women, Children, and Families: Addresses poor health outcomes for underserved women, children, and families through expanded access and coverage and increased resources and tools.
· Title VI – Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Improves the availability, accessibility, and quality of mental health services through increased funding and development to combat inequities.
· Title VII – Addressing High Impact Minority Diseases: Addresses high impact minority diseases by increasing pre-emptive screenings, research, treatments, and coverage.
· Title VIII – Health Information Technology: Promotes, strengthens, and invests in the Health IT infrastructure to multiply its impact on racial and ethnic minority communities.
· Title IX – Accountability and Evaluation: Emphasizes the federal government’s responsibility to prevent health care services discrimination and the importance of strengthening accountability through transparency and enforcement actions.
· Title X – Addressing Social Determinants and Improving Environmental Justice: Defines social determinants of health and introduces assessments and programs to remediate the factors influencing the unequal distribution of health inequities.
HEAA has been introduced since 2003 by the Congressional Tri-Caucus, comprised of the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Since that time, over 300 racial and health equity organizations, researchers, provider groups, and community-based organizations have contributed to the development of HEAA.