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Congressional Tri-Caucus Introduces 2016 Health Equity and Accountability Act

June 15, 2016
Press Release

Today, Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2016.  HEAA was formally introduced this morning by Congresswoman Kelly, the bill’s lead sponsor and the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust.  HEAA builds on the advancements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by providing federal resources, policies, and infrastructure to eliminate health disparities in all populations, regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, age, ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or English proficiency.  

“While we have made progress in eliminating health disparities in America, HEAA is a reminder that there is much work to be done to improve health outcomes in minority populations. It’s a vital roadmap to a healthier future for all Americans,” Kelly said. “Race, ethnicity, zip code or bank balance should not be determinants of health. HEAA is a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to ensuring that all Americans have the foundation they need to live healthier lives.”

The Tri-Caucus has introduced HEAA in each Congress since 2007. Through the years, the bill has served as a comprehensive blueprint for achieving health equity. Past HEAA provisions have informed ACA provisions and HHS initiatives.

HEAA improves and guides federal efforts in the following vital areas: data collection and reporting; culturally and linguistically appropriate health care; health workforce diversity; health care services; health outcomes for women, children and families; mental health; high impact minority diseases; health information technology; accountability and evaluation; and addressing the social causes of health disparities.

“The barriers to obtaining quality health care are especially daunting for minority communities,” said Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Task Force. “We can’t just add some funding here or make a policy change there and walk away. It takes really thoughtful, comprehensive policy, like the national standards and healthcare investments in this legislation, to make a real difference.”

As co-chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus healthcare taskforce, I am excited to be an original co-sponsor of the Health Equity and Accountability Act. The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2014 builds upon the remarkable success of the Affordable Care Act and will help reduce and eventually eliminate disparities in health status, outcomes, and life expectancy for communities of color,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Taskforce. “In particular, HEAA focuses on comprehensive mechanisms to address incidences of diseases that disproportionally affect communities of color, especially cancer, heart disease, hepatitis, diabetes and HIV/AIDS while expanding access to culturally and linguistically appropriate care.”

"Minorities are disproportionately affected when it comes to healthcare in the United States. For a number of reasons, the Latino community remains among the highest uninsured populations. This makes our community less likely to seek out medical treatment and preventive care, resulting in some of the highest illness rates,” said Linda T. Sánchez, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  “Compound the lack of access with the shortage of health care staff who are able to speak their language and the Latino community is severely disadvantaged. We need to pass the Health Equity and Accountability Act because it ensures a more equitable health system for all communities.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act is a vital component to eliminating health disparities in minority communities.  This bill includes many of CAPAC’s top healthcare priorities for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, including provisions for more accurate and disaggregated data collection, culturally and linguistically appropriate health care, workforce diversity, and measures to address diseases like Hepatitis B and diabetes that disproportionately impact our community,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.  “I commend Congresswoman Robin Kelly for leading this effort in the 114th Congress, and thank all of our partners in the Tri-Caucus for their dedication to this important cause.”

“The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2016 is vital in our efforts to advance health equity in communities of color,” said G. K. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Health disparities are complex, particularly among the African American community, which has historically been disproportionally affected by higher risks of health issues as well as lower life expectancy.  The HEAA has provided a principled, comprehensive legislative agenda that allows us to better address the gap in health equity and improve the health goals of all communities, thus providing greater access and resources for the individuals who need it the most.”

“Today, despite improvements in overall health in the United States, African-American and other minority populations lag behind on nearly every measure of health care, including access to and quality of care, timeliness of care, and health outcomes,” said Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), co-chair of the Congressional Men’s Health Caucus. “The Health Equity and Accountability Act is a comprehensive approach—one that builds on the successes of the Affordable Care Act to ensure that minority communities have access to the high-quality care they deserve. This is a common-sense bill that will make critical progress in advancing health equity—and I am proud to support it.”

“Second to the Affordable Care Act, HEAA is the single most important healthcare bill for people of color,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.  “This bill seeks to address and eliminate many of the inequities that result in poorer health outcomes for Blacks and Latinos.  It is our hope, that through the passage of this bill, we will increase cultural competency, life spans, and the quality of medical services delivered to underserved communities.  The National Urban League is proud to be a leading partner to the Tri-Caucus as it relates to HEAA, and will continue to help ensure its advancement in the U.S. Congress.”