The State House News Service reported on Friday that the House Ways and Means Committee is voting on legislation to create a permanent Office of Health Equity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
(UPDATE: On February 3, the House of Representatives gave its preliminary approval to the bill, adopting the Ways and Means technical amendment. A final House vote is required before the bill goes to the Senate, so please call your Representative.)
Health Care For All has long supported this legislation, working with a broad coalition of disparities advocates in the Disparities Action Network to draft the bill back in 2009. This session’s bill, H. 2071, was introduced by Representatives Jeffrey Sánchez and Byron Rushing, along with 30 co-sponsors. It was already approved by the Public Health and Health Care Financing Committees (which offered a minor amendment).
In addition to creating an address in state government focused on health disparities, the bill would create a framework for a comprehensive approach to health disparities. The approach encompasses all the activities of state government, such as housing, transportation, education and economic development. It requires that each state budget submission identify major state initiatives that affect health and health care, and their impact on health disparities. It also calls for an annual report card on progress in reducing disparities.
HCFA urges the House and Senate to approve the legislation. The state has made important strides, creating a Health Disparities Council and an Office of Health Equity within DPH. Passage of this legislation would make health disparities an institutional concern at the highest levels of state government.
– Brian Rosman