HEALTH EQUITY: Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, New Report From Senator Murray Outlines Roots of Systemic Racism and Inequality in U.S. Health Care, Lays Out Recommendations For Congressional Action
Senator Murray: “This report is a call to action. We can—and must—do better.”
Senator Murray releases new report that outlines how the U.S. health system has failed communities of color and offers recommendations for how to address continuing inequality and racism
(Washington, D.C.) –Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, released a 44-page report, “COVID-19 & Achieving Health Equity: Congressional Action is Necessary to Address Racism and Inequality in the U.S. Health Care System,” outlining how the American health care system has failed communities of color due to entrenched bias, discrimination, and racism—and demonstrating how those failures have contributed to disproportionate and tragically high COVID-19 death and infection rates among the Black, Latinx, and Tribal communities. In the report, Senator Murray also lays out a series of recommendations on Congressional action to address inequality and racism within the U.S. health care system.
“Our health care system has continually failed communities of color—and the COVID-19 pandemic provides a stark and tragic example. This report is a call to action. We can—and must—do better,” said Senator Murray. “The recommendations in this report represent the kind of work I wish the Senate was focused on right now and that I will push for the Senate to focus on in the future.”
The report details stark data illustrating how hard communities of color have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic—such as the realities that Black people are 3.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white people, COVID-19 accounts for 1 in 5 deaths in the Latinx community, and American Indian or Alaska Native patients are being hospitalized at more than four times the rate of white people. The impacts of COVID-19 have been particularly severe for people of color who have a disability, are older adults, have preexisting conditions, are LGBTQIA+, or are workers who earn low incomes. Through the personal stories of people like Edgardo—the son of a Latino meatpacker whose father struggled to recover and return to work after contracting COVID-19—the report also shows that these numbers are more than just data, but represent devastating realities for many people of color.
“Among many tragic lessons, the COVID-19 pandemic is an appalling reminder of the deep inequities entrenched in our country. The high rates of infection and mortality in communities of color are driven by health and economic systems that were built on foundations of abuse, discrimination, racism, and neglect that continue to hurt communities of color today,” reads the report. “These inequities did not start with the COVID-19 pandemic, nor will they end when the virus is contained.”
This report demonstrates that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color is not a coincidence and that health disparities in the U.S. are not new, but rather that the inequities exacerbated by this crisis have long existed and are the result of systemic racism. Specifically, the report lays out several root causes for this, including unequal access to health care; historic exploitation and discrimination that have caused mistrust in the health care system by people of color; and continued explicit and implicit bias from health care providers.
Senator Murray’s report lays out 30 recommendations to address the inequality and systemic racism within our health system and improve health outcomes for communities of color during this pandemic and beyond. The report recommends that Congress take action to expand access to affordable, high-quality health care, reduce bias and discrimination in the health care system, strengthen public health, and support communities of color with high rates of illness and death during this pandemic—by expanding testing, creating and implementing an equitable vaccines plan, ensuring workplace safety, and more.
Some of the report’s 30 recommendations to Congress include:
- Providing dedicated COVID-19 relief funding for communities of color.
- Requiring the Trump Administration to plan for equitable vaccine distribution and administration.
- Funding expanded testing and contact tracing efforts in communities of color.
- Protecting workers from exposure to COVID-19 on the job, by requiring that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issue an enforceable standard for infectious disease.
- Creating a federal right to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave.
- Prohibiting any discrimination in health care system because of a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.
- Ensuring clinical trials are inclusive of people of color.
- Requiring anti-racist and anti-bias training for health care professionals and across health care systems.
- Provide support to Black, Latinx, Tribal, and other underrepresented people to train and pursue careers in public health and as health care providers.
- Building on the ACA to expand insurance coverage and make it more affordable.
- Reducing disparities in research funding rates and eliminating harassment in the sciences.
- Expanding coverage eligibility for immigrant communities.
- Bolstering public health departments’ capability to address racial and ethnic disparities.
Senator Murray’s report is all the more timely considering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent passing and the resulting vacancy on the Supreme Court, which has jeopardized the future of the ACA. Senator Murray is particularly concerned that if Republicans don’t let Americans make their voices heard in the upcoming election and instead push through another far-right nominee to the Supreme Court, millions of people of color would lose their health insurance and the troubling health inequities outlined in her report would get much worse.
The full report, “COVID-19 & Achieving Health Equity: Congressional Action is Necessary to Address Racism and Inequality in the U.S. Health Care System,” can be found HERE.
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