Padilla, Booker Announce Bill to Make Access to Equitable Health Care a Protected Civil Right

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced the Equal Health Care for All Act, bicameral legislation that would make equal access to medical care a protected civil right to help address the racial inequities and structural failures in America’s health care system that have led to higher mortality rates in communities of color.

The Equal Health Care for All Act would establish a definition for inequitable health care to help ensure that hospitals provide the same high quality health care services to all patients, regardless of race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, or religion. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“For far too long, inequities in our health care system have led to disproportionately worse health outcomes for women and people of color,” said Senator Padilla. “Congress has a duty to right the wrongs that have resulted in the lack of access to high quality health care for so many communities. The Equal Health Care for All Act will make this unequal care a form of prohibited discrimination, treating equitable health care as a civil right to provide all patients with the access to the high-quality care they deserve.”

“Healthcare is a fundamental human right, and this legislation will help ensure that equal access to medical care is delivered free from discrimination,” said Senator Booker. “Communities of color bear the disproportionate burden of poor health outcomes due to unequal access to affordable, quality care. The Equal Health Care For All Act will create a health care landscape where everybody can receive dignified, equitable care regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, disability, or age.”

“Americans deserve top-of-the-line health care. Yet, communities of color often face unequal treatment in health services, leading to greater risks of severe illness and mortality,” said Representative Schiff. “That’s why I was proud to reintroduce the Equal Health Care for All Act, and to partner with Senator Padilla who is leading the charge in the Senate. Together we can make equal access to quality and affordable health care a reality for every American, ensuring the highest standard of medical care for everyone regardless of background.”

The Equal Health Care for All Act aims to remedy structural and systemic failures in America’s health care system that have led to Black, Hispanic, and indigenous individuals disproportionately suffering from a range of illnesses, from asthma to heart disease. Black women are more likely than white women to die from breast cancer and during childbirth. Hispanic individuals suffer from higher rates of chronic diseases, including an 80 percent higher rate of diabetes.

Specifically, the Equal Health Care for All Act would:

  • Require the HHS Secretary to promote regulations requiring health care providers and facilities to disaggregate data on health outcomes by demographic characteristics;
  • Require inclusion of quality measures of equitable health care in hospital value-based purchasing programs;
  • Empower Medicare and Medicaid providers to enforce equitable health care standards;
  • Rename the HHS “Office on Civil Rights” to “Office of Civil Rights and Health Equity;”
  • Prohibit health care providers from providing inequitable health care to patients;
  • Establish a Federal Health Equity Commission; and
  • Authorize grants for hospitals to promote equitable health care outcomes.

Senator Padilla has long been a leader in the fight to make health care more equitable in the United States. Last year, Padilla, Booker, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a Senate Resolution to declare racism a public health crisis. Padilla also announced the Health Equity and Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) Community Inclusion Act, legislation that would help make sure the federal government accurately recognizes the experiences and needs of members of MENA communities. As a co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Mental Health Caucus, Padilla introduced a trio of bills to address the unique mental health needs of military childrenLatinos, and farm workers. Previously, Padilla joined Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in introducing the Kira Johnson Act to address the maternal mortality crisis, especially among Black moms and other birthing people of color. Additionally, he introduced the bipartisan Urban Indian Health Providers Facilities Improvement Act to pave the way for increased investment in the renovation and construction of urban Indian health facilities.

A one-pager of the bill is available here.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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