Congresswoman Richardson introduces legislation for healthcare equality

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healthcare-red-stethoscopeOn Monday, Congresswoman Laura Richardson introduced the Equal Rights for Health Care Act—Title 42 (HR2744), legislation that will prohibit discrimination in federal assisted health care services and research programs on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status.

In 1972, the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act established federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education activities. The law has not only had a tremendous impact on gender equality in all educational activities, but it has also garnered much attention by leveling the playing field in high school and collegiate athletics.

“In 1980, I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I played on the Women’s basketball team,” Congresswoman Richardson said. “The Men’s basketball team took a plane to the majority of the away games, where they were provided an opportunity of time, rest, limited missed instruction hours and better recuperation. The Woman’s basketball team traveled primarily in two vans, which put the players in challenging situations on and off the court.”

“Now, almost 30 years later, I have watched the implementation of Title IX, the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which has said to little boys and girls across America that equal treatment is in the United States court rooms, classrooms and sports complexes,” Congresswoman Richardson added. “It’s past time to add laboratories and waiting rooms to the list.”

Congresswoman Richardson’s bill will expand upon the belief that Americans should receive equal treatment from education to health care. Her bill is based upon the premise that all Americans, regardless of their sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status, pay the same taxes that fund health care services and research programs and so everyone should have the same focus on research of health care

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, the age-adjusted death rate for all cancers for African-Americans in 2001 was 25% higher than for white Americans. Likewise, in 2002, the percentage of Hispanics and Latinos, aging from 65 years of age and older, who received adult immunization shots, were 47% compared to 70% of whites. In 2000, infant mortality among Native Hawaiians was 60% higher than among whites. Also, the rate of leg amputation, as the result from diabetes, is four times greater among black Medicare recipients than white. Lastly, while heart disease is the leading killer among both men and women, women are more likely to die from the disease than men.

“These statistics demonstrate the gross need to close the gap between inequities and, in some cases, certain classifications, such as whites and males, which have benefited greater than others from research dollars,” Congresswoman Richardson said.

The Equal Rights for Health Care Act—Title 42, has the early endorsements of the National Minority Quality Forum, Family Equality Council and Families USA.

Further, the TriCaucus’s bill, The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 (HEAA09), will include language from Congresswoman Richardson’s bill and would aim toward reducing the serious health disparities that disproportionately affect racial and gender minorities. Along with Congresswoman Richardson’s provision, the bill will also:

Create a public health insurance option that is universal and includes mental and dental health services.
Strengthen the Office of Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Address cultural and linguistic concerns such as credentialing for medical translators.

The TriCaucus of the U.S. House of Representatives has worked tirelessly for many years to implement legislation that would eliminate disparities. Congresswoman Richardson’s ability to join tenured legislators in such a monumental bill is a testament of her hard work, knowledge of complex issues and respect from her colleagues.

Congresswoman Richardson is a Democrat from California’s 37th Congressional District. She is a member of the House Committees on Transportation & Infrastructure and Homeland Security. Her district includes Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Watts, Willowbrooke and Signal Hill.

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