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Congresswoman Kelly Leads Congressional Tri-Caucus in Introducing Ending Health Disparities during COVID-19 Act

Press Release

Date: Sept. 11, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

This week, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, introduced the Ending Health Disparities during COVID-19 Act (H.R. 8200).

"The racial disparities illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic are shocking but not surprising. We know that generations of health disparities and lack of access have created a two-tiered system in which many Americans are forced to live shorter, less healthy lives," said Congresswoman Robin Kelly, member of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. "This bill takes the best ideas for addressing and eventually eliminating health disparities and combines them with necessary but unenacted COVID-19 recovery and response provisions."

The Ending Health Disparities during COVID-19 Act focuses on data collection, COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, public awareness, community grants, health IT, insurance access, safety programs and increased federal oversight.

The bill was crafted in coordination with the Congressional Tri-Caucus and National Indian Health Board. The bill's original co-sponsors are Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass (CA), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu (CA), Rep. Deb Haaland (NM), Rep. Chuy Garcia (IL), Rep. Barbara Lee (CA), Rep. Darren Soto (FL), Rep. Terri Sewell (AL), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC), Rep. Gregorio Sablan (NMI), Rep. Nanette Barragán (CA), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA), Rep. John P. Sarbanes (MD), Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley (MA), Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS), Rep. Cedric Richmond (LA), Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX), Rep. Brendan Boyle (PA), Rep. Andre Carson (IN), Rep. William Lacy Clay (MO), Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH), Rep. Ro Khanna (CA), Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia (TX), Rep. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (GU), Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL), Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (MA), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ) and Rep. Val B. Demings (FL).

"The spread and outcome of COVID-19 in the United States has simply brought the issues of healthcare disparities to the forefront of national attention. But it did not catch Black America by surprise. What we are seeing is more than just an overstretched healthcare system, but instead the result of years of systemic racism, disenfranchisement, and oppression of Black people in America," said Chairwoman Karen Bass, Congressional Black Caucus. "Therefore, if we are serious about overcoming the coronavirus in our country, we can not do it without implementing a holistic approach to ending healthcare disparities in our country. The Ending Health Disparities during COVID-19 Act provides targeted legislation to tackle long standing inequalities in our healthcare system and ensures that our most vulnerable populations receive the quality care they deserve."

"Health inequities in American society were not only exposed but exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic," said Chairman Joaquin Castro, Congressional Hispanic Caucus. "This disparity is particularly stark for the Latino community -- Latinos are three times more likely to get infected and twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than our White counterparts. That's why this bill to ramp up data collection efforts combined with community-based health care is critical, and I commend my colleagues in the Tri-Caucus for advancing this important legislation."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deep inequality in our healthcare system. Communities of color who are more likely to be working on the front lines, risking their lives to keep our country running, are also less likely to have access to quality healthcare and coronavirus testing. In fact, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus and continue to have among the highest infection and mortality rates out of any racial group in several states," said Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. "New data also highlights how COVID-19 has devastated the Asian American community by contributing to a 35% increase in mortality for Asian Americans across the country. It is past time that we fix this. This bill will help us address longstanding health disparities that have led to disproportionate death and illness in communities of color by increasing data collection, testing, education, and access to healthcare. I'm proud to support Rep. Kelly and my Tri-Caucus colleagues in introducing this important legislation."

"COVID-19 has exposed the deep inequities in health care--a reality my community has experienced for decades. If we are serious about addressing this unprecedented public health emergency, we must urgently bridge health outcome gaps for people of color and ensure that our communities have access to the affordable, quality health care they need and deserve," said Congressman Jesús "Chuy" García. "We need bold, visionary ideas that promote the highest level of health for all communities of color. That's why I was proud to partner with Congresswoman Kelly on the Health Equity and Accountability Act I introduced earlier this year, and I support her Ending Health Disparities during COVID-19 Act to address health inequities during the pandemic."

The legislation has won the endorsement of numerous health advocacy organization, including National Medical Association, National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), American Diabetes Association, Black Women's Health Imperative and Families USA.

"COVID-19 has taken an enormous toll on the 122 million Americans living with diabetes and prediabetes -- a group that's made up of disproportionately low-income Americans and people of color," said Tracey D. Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association® (ADA). "Not only has this pandemic shined a spotlight on systemic inequities that already existed, but it's widened them, making it even harder for our most underserved communities to get the help they need during this crisis. This is why the ADA is proud to support the Ending Health Disparities during COVID--19 Act. This important legislation would help level the playing field by implementing nationwide COVID testing, providing free treatment for the virus once it becomes available, and expanding access to insurance for those who lose health coverage when they lose their job. This bill couldn't have come at a more critical time, and we urge all Members of Congress to support this bill."

"Families USA applauds Representative Robin Kelly on the introduction of the Ending Health Disparities during COVID--19 (EHDC) Act. Families deserve a plan that protects their health and financial futures --deaths are rising; people are losing their health insurance, and jobs in health care and related industries are in danger. In addition, we know that COVID-19 is affecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color the most. The EHDC Actincludes a focus on equitable data collection and reporting, coverage at no cost for COVID-19 vaccines and treatment, culturally and linguistically appropriate services, and the digital divide in health care. This historical moment calls for legislation that centers health equity -- and Representative Kelly's bill does just that," said Amber A. Hewitt, Ph.D., Director of Health Equity, Families USA

"As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we must commit to ensuring this is the last pandemic to take a disproportionate toll on any American community," added Congresswoman Kelly.