While national demographics are rapidly changing, racial and ethnic minority populations are expected to continue growing in the coming years, communities of color continue to face substantial cultural, social, and economic barriers to obtaining quality health care and achieving equitable health outcomes. Communities of color also experience poorer health statuses than their counterparts. Efforts to improve their health and the delivery of care have been limited by inadequate resources for funding, staffing,
stewardship, and accountability.
The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) is a comprehensive, broadly-supported federal legislation to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. HEAA is the only legislation that holistically addresses health inequalities, their intersections with immigration status, age, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, language, and socio-economic status, along with obstacles associated with historical and contemporary injustices.
Health care advocates across the country applauded the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as the most significant advancement in support of the health of communities of color in the last 40 years. The ACA improved and extended health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, ended pre-existing
condition exclusions, lifted lifetime caps on care, covered clinical preventive costs, and increased investments in public health and community-level prevention initiatives. Many policy initiatives in previous versions of HEAA, such as expanded Offices of Minority Health and health data collection
standards, were passed as part of the ACA.
Since the ACA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed Healthy People 2020, the National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities, National Prevention Strategy, and National Quality Strategy as the nation’s coordinated roadmap to reduce health disparities. Additionally, the enhanced National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) and National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) are additional initiatives by HHS to prioritize the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. HEAA builds on these important efforts.
While the ACA includes a number of provisions to reduce health disparities, additional investments must be made to fully achieve health equity. At a time when health care is under attack, we must continue to use our shared values to work toward a unified vision of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity. Through collaborative work, we can better achieve a sustainable, cost-effective health care system without barriers that prohibit communities of color and other individuals from obtaining quality care and achieving equitable health outcomes.
Cecely Castillo, Policy Director