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House Democrats Introduce Legislation To Address Pandemic Health Disparities

Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) today introduced the Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities Act. The legislation would direct the Agency For Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to research the healthcare system’s response to COVID–19, including analyzing telehealth, supply chain, and health care delivery, and particularly focusing on factors contributing to and strategies to mitigate racial and ethnic disparities and disparities in other vulnerable communities. The legislation would also require AHRQ to coordinate interagency response to mitigate for ethnic and racial disparities in a COVID-19 vaccine strategy.

“Six months into this pandemic it gets clearer every day that the impacts are not being felt equally. Policymakers need better information to help shape a response that directs resources to where they are most needed,” said Beyer. “My bill would help identify the disparate impacts of COVID-19, including on communities of color, and strengthen national efforts to address those disparities. A data-driven approach is the right way to go, and the federal government has a lot of room for improvement in this area.”

“The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is one of the most effective tools we have in our arsenal to assess our response to COVID-19 and identify best practices moving forward,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell. “I am thrilled to join my colleagues to introduce the COVID-19 Health Disparities Act, which will direct AHRQ to analyze the opportunities and challenges associated with various aspects of our COVID-19 response, including those related to telehealth, supply chain issues, and overall health care delivery. This research will help guide policy making around vaccine deployment so that all communities have equitable access, particularly minority communities that have historically been left behind by our health care delivery system.”

“I am proud to help introduce the Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities Act, which directs the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to conduct research on the US health care system’s response to COVID-19,” said Roybal-Allard. “AHRQ-supported research helps determine how to get the right medications and treatments to the right patients at the right time. Its science has helped reduce unnecessary medical procedures and prevent illnesses before they develop, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in healthcare spending.  Given America’s lackluster performance in addressing the pandemic compared to almost all other developed nations, AHRQ will be uniquely prepared to monitor the COVID-19 health care landscape, to identify gaps and weaknesses related to racial and ethnic disparities, and ensure the pipeline of new COVID discoveries reaches all health care providers and patients, regardless of where they work or live.”

“The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality plays a key role in evaluating our health system’s efficacy and identifying innovations that improve health outcomes for all Americans,” said Dingell. “The Addressing COVID-19 Health Disparities Act will empower AHRQ to comprehensively assess our healthcare response to the current pandemic. This critical research will allow us to fully understand the impact of policy interventions to address COVID-19 and better prepare for future public health crises.”