In a Sept. 25 letter to Congress, America’s Essential Hospitals urged lawmakers to include policies that bolster the health care safety net as part of legislative efforts to help rectify the unconscionable health inequities among vulnerable populations across the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the persistent health and economic disparities experienced by many vulnerable populations, especially communities of color. Renewed focus on these pervasive inequities has motivated congressional lawmakers to explore policy options to mitigate disparities in health and health care and address social determinants of health (SDOH). Policies to require the collection and reporting of racial and demographic data were included in previous COVID-19 supplemental legislation that became law.
In addition to addressing the immediate impact of the pandemic, more sustainable support is needed to aid essential hospitals, as their patients experience inequities resulting from systemic racism and socioeconomic barriers to health care, and consequently, are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Writing to the bipartisan leaders of four congressional committees with jurisdiction over health care issues, the association described the role essential hospitals play in caring for vulnerable populations and improving health outcomes in the communities they anchor.
To ensure essential hospitals can maintain, or enhance, their work to eliminate health disparities, the letter encourages lawmakers to prioritize policies that would:
- support robust data collection on patient demographic information and SDOH;
- ensure sustained and dependable federal funding and support for the health care safety net; and
- recognize the safety-net mission in quality and outcomes measures.
The association’s letter cites multiple examples of programs and initiatives underway at essential hospitals to remove social barriers to health and improve health equity. The association will continue to engage with lawmakers on policy opportunities to support essential hospitals and their ability to provide quality, comprehensive care to vulnerable populations.
Contact Vice President of Legislative Affairs Carlos Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.585.0112 with questions.