America’s health care system has a lot of problems. One serious issue is that the quality of health care a person receives can depend on their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, immigration status and numerous other characteristics.
For nearly two decades, legislation called the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) has been introduced in the U.S. Congress, but it has yet to pass. It’s been championed by the Congressional Tri-Caucus, which consists of groups representing Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Americans in Congress.
Last month, Rep. Robin Kelly once again introduced the HEAA. The legislation aims to “reduce racial and ethnic health inequities, address the maternal mortality crisis, strengthen health data collection and 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,” according to Rep. Kelly.
The bill doesn’t just address disparities in health care across racial and ethnic lines. It also deals with substandard care that people too often face because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and even their disabilities.
What’s new in the latest version of the bill?
The bill introduced last month includes provisions to improve access to both physical and mental health care through community-based programs that would include the greater ability for people to get health care in their own homes or in congregate settings. This is crucial for those who may not have their own vehicles and limited access to other transportation.
Improved health care for people regardless of race, ethnicity and other characteristics often starts with including a greater diversity of people in clinical trials. For example, this year, the American Lung Association (ALA) instituted a campaign to encourage more Black patients with lung cancer to participate in its clinical trials.
When a patient is harmed or worse because medical professionals were negligent or made mistakes in their care, it’s often not obvious whether it’s because of their race, economic status or other characteristics. However, whatever the reason, patients and their families may be able to hold these providers liable in order to seek justice and compensation.