By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Washington, D.C.— Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today aims to improve access to quality health care and decrease health disparities in communities of color.
The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2022 provides a comprehensive set of strategic policy solutions designed to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, including those that strengthen health data collection to inform policies, improve diversity in the health care workforce and expand and improve access to health care services.
The bill also permanently lifts the cap on federal Medicaid spending in the U.S. territories and brings federal matching rates in line with states – correcting a longstanding and unjust imbalance that left many limited-income individuals in the territories without access to lifesaving medical care.
The legislation also offers a path to increase the federal tobacco tax, including tax parity on other tobacco products like e-cigarettes, and improve access to cessation services and other lifesaving care in Medicaid and private health plans to reduce suffering and death from tobacco-related diseases like cancer.
A priority for ACS CAN, the bill also includes a provision from the Diversifying Investigations Via Equitable Research Studies for Everyone (DIVERSE) Trials Act, which is bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to increase access to clinical trials and improve participation by communities that are traditionally underrepresented in them by removing barriers to costs from non-medical fees for patients.
HEAA and the DIVERSE Trials Act are strongly supported by the Congressional Tri-Caucuses which include the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, issued the following statement:
“Cancer is a disease that affects everyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Despite some progress, cancer disparities persist, especially when it comes to communities of color. :he legislation proposes targeted approaches to reduce disparities for diseases and conditions that significantly impact people of color, including cancer.
"These measures span the entire cancer continuum of care, including prevention and access to cancer clinical trials by removing financial barriers for patients.
“Clinical trials represent an opportunity for patients to access the most cutting-edge cancer treatments. The inclusion of the DIVERSE Trials Act would address financial barriers that disproportionately affect certain racial and ethnic groups, older adults, rural residents, and those with limited incomes.
“In addition, the tobacco industry has long targeted Black, LGBTQ+, youth and limited-income communities with their addictive products. By including proven policies to reduce tobacco use – significantly increasing the tobacco tax, including tax equity on other tobacco products like e-cigarettes, and ensuring coverage of proven tobacco cessation services in Medicaid and private health plans – this legislation works to address the decades of harm Big Tobacco has inflicted on all communities, but particularly among those who have been disproportionately targeted with their deceptive marketing practices.
“Everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive cancer. We cannot achieve our goal of reducing cancer deaths without reducing the burden of this disease across all communities. We look forward to working with Congress on advancing this critical legislation.” (ACS CAN)