Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) June 15 introduced the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2016 (HEAA, H.R. 5475), legislation intended to complement efforts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152) to eliminate health disparities. Members of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) – are among the original cosponsors of the bill.
In addition to provisions aimed at improving culturally appropriate care, data collection and reporting, and other initiatives, the bill strives to strengthen the health care workforce. For example, the bill includes:
- A section establishing the “Health Professions Workforce Fund,” which will authorize expanded and sustained financial support for the Health Resources and Services (HRSA)’s Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing workforce development programs;
- A program to assist academic institutions in developing capacity to improve health equity in their communities;
- A “Sense of Congress” that eliminating the freeze on graduate medical education support through Medicare is “critical to ensuring an appropriate supply of physicians to meet the Nation’s health care needs, is critical to facilitating equitable access for all who seek health care, and is critical to mitigating disparities in health and health care,”; and
- Language allowing teaching hospitals to count all of the time residents spend in approved residency programs in an attempt to resolve a longstanding regulatory barrier to residency training in nonhospital settings.
Upon introduction of the bill, CHC Healthcare Taskforce Chair Rep. Kelly said, “HEAA is a reminder that there is much work to be done to improve health outcomes in minority populations,” and that “race, ethnicity, zip code or bank balance should not be determinants of health.” She continued, “HEAA is a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to ensuring that all Americans have the foundation they need to live healthier lives.”