Cárdenas, Brown, Hoyer, Sewell, Kuster, Blunt Rochester, Kelly Reintroduce Legislation to Address Disparities in Health Care System
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-05), Congresswoman Terri Sewell (AL-07), Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) and Congresswoman Robin Kelly (IL-02)
reintroduced the Health Enterprise Zones Act, H.R.4510, to close the gaps in our health care system that have left behind minorities and underserved communities. The coronavirus pandemic laid bare longstanding disparities in our health care system along racial and geographic lines. This bill creates incentives to improve health care access, public health and attract health care practitioners to work in health-disadvantaged communities.
Data shows the COVID-19 virus has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, in line with other public health concerns. People of color are more likely to be uninsured and are at a higher risk of asthma, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. Decades of implicit racial bias and systemic issues embedded in our health care system have put communities of color around the country at a disadvantage.
Increasing services available to low-income communities, reducing the number of hospital visits and lowering healthcare costs for individuals and healthcare providers are connected with better health outcomes for those that have been neglected for generations.
“For too long, systemic inequities have run rampant through every aspect of our healthcare system. Barriers to access and care have led to worse health outcomes and higher morbidity rates for Latino, Black, tribal and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities- a devastating reality that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “The Health Enterprise Zone Act is a necessary step in reducing barriers to access, improving health outcomes, and, ultimately, creating a more equitable reality for our nation’s low-income families and communities of color.”
“Targeted programs like this initiative are efficient and can drastically improve health outcomes in minority and underserved communities. We have the results to show it,” said Congressman Brown. “Justice and equity must extend throughout our communities -- including our health care system. Prioritizing health equity must be a permanent, long-term part of our strategy to improve care and health outcomes in our state. We must ensure that we are setting our most vulnerable communities up for success by providing the tailored care and attention they need.”
In 2013, a similar initiative was launched in Maryland. Participating communities saw a decrease of more than 18,000 inpatient stays by 2016. This reduction in hospital admissions yielded a net health savings of over $108 million, far outweighing the $15 million it cost to implement the program. In 2021, the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act, HB-463, became law without Governor Hogan’s signature, modeled after the Health Enterprise Zone initiative’s success.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the deep-rooted inequalities within our health care systems, which continue to have a disproportionately detrimental impact on communities of color,” said Congressman Hoyer. “We must not ignore the negative effect of racial bias in our health care, or the longstanding racial disparities that have allowed for poor public health outcomes in Maryland. The Health Enterprise Zones Act is an important step toward confronting racial disparities in our communities and ensuring that every Marylander has access to the quality, affordable health care they deserve. I look forward to working alongside Congressman Brown to ensure this critical legislation is passed and enacted into law.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the systemic inequities that plague our health care system and lead to worse outcomes for minority and low-income communities,” said Congresswoman Sewell. “Since coming to Congress, building a more equitable health care system has been a top priority of mine which is why I’m proud to reintroduce the Health Enterprise Zones Act. This bill provides incentives including tax credits, federal grants, student loan repayment, and increased Medicare reimbursements for health care providers to increase investment in underserved communities, bringing us one step closer to ensuring that everyone has access to the quality, affordable care they deserve.”
“The COVID-19 public health crisis pulled back the curtain on existing challenges and inequities in our country, and it shined a light on disparities in our nation’s health care system that have negatively impacted communities of color and underserved populations for far too long,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We must work to confront gaps in medical care and ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health services. I’m proud to help introduce this legislation, which is an important step toward creating a more just health system and addressing long-standing health inequities in the United States.”
“COVID-19 highlighted and amplified inequities and disparities that have long existed in our society. One of the starkest and most consequential of those disparities is access to affordable and reliable health care,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “Tackling the persistent health inequities in communities of color requires innovative solutions that not only improve health outcomes but reduce health care costs. This legislation will bring critical physicians to medically underserved areas in Delaware and help us improve the health of communities across the state. I’m proud to join my colleagues and commend my friend, Congressman Brown, for his leadership in introducing the Health Opportunity Zones Act. This legislation will help close those gaps in care and further our goal of building healthier communities.”
Incentives included in this legislation for healthcare practitioners include tax credits for the employer and employee, student loan repayment, federal grants and a 10 percent bonus on Medicare reimbursements.
The following organizations have endorsed the Health Enterprise Zones Act; Planned Parenthood Federation of America, American Heart Association, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, American Public Health Association, Mental Health America and Families USA.