House Passes Legislation on Health Disparities

House Passes Legislation on Health Disparities

House passes Health Care Financing Chairman Sánchez’ bill, An Act to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in the Commonwealth, which establishes an Office of Health Equity.

BOSTON— The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation today, which would eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities by establishing an Office of Health Equity.

The bill, sponsored by the House Chair of the Committee on Health Care Financing, Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, would task the Office of Health Equity with: coordinating the various state policies to address health disparities; setting state goals for the improvement of disparities; and reporting annually on progress made towards reducing health disparities in the Commonwealth.

“Despite our efforts in the past to improve the access, affordability, and quality of healthcare, there still remain substantial racial and ethnic disparities. We have allowed these inequities to exist for far too long. We cannot continue to merely accept these disparities in healthcare status and outcomes while they impact the minority residents of Massachusetts,” Sánchez said.

Studies have shown that socio-economic, behavioral, and environmental factors account for 80% of overall health status. Social factors, such as income, housing, and education are the greatest determinants of individual health. “In the last few years, the Commonwealth has made some important progress in addressing these factors. However, a lack of coordination and long-term planning have hindered our ability to make meaningful change. A dedicated Office of Health Equity can provide a framework for coordinating these existing programs and optimize our efforts across multiple agencies,” Sánchez explained.

This legislation was filed in response to recommendations from the Commission to End Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, which was tasked with examining state and national data on ethnic and racial health disparities and evaluating current public and private programs and policies.

Massachusetts currently spends 75% of health care dollars on chronic disease care. Minorities disproportionately experience the burden of chronic disease and disability, such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. In Boston, the asthma rate among African-American and Latino children is four times higher than white children. Eliminating health disparities for minorities may reduce direct medical care expenditures by $229.4 billion nationally.

The bill will now move to the Senate for debate and further action.


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