New Report Shows Major Reforms Needed to Ensure Equal Access, Treatment & Dignity for All in U.S. Health Care System
Proposed reforms aim to erase hidden or explicit barriers to proper diagnosis & treatment for underserved populations
(Washington, D.C.) The National Health Council (NHC), the voice of more than 160 million people with chronic diseases and disabilities, today released a new report, Access, Affordability and Quality: A Patient-Focused Blueprint for Real Health Equity, that identified systemic biases and structural disparities in the U.S. health care system that create barriers to quality care for millions of Americans. The report also proposes key marketplace and public policy reforms that will help build a fully transparent and equitable health care system for the 21st Century.
“This report does two important things,” said Gary Puckrein, PhD, President & CEO, National Minority Quality Forum. “It confirms the serious biases in health care today and provides important remedies that will help correct the significant flaws in the system and improve the lives of millions of underserved Americans.”
“This report is a critical tool in our drive for a truly equitable health care system,” said Randall Rutta, NHC Chief Executive Officer. “We must eradicate the systemic biases in health care that create obstacles to proper care for millions of Americans, and the NHC, through our Health Equity Initiative, will not rest until we create a truly equitable, transparent and quality health care system in the U.S.”
The report was the result of NHC’s Health Equity Initiative, an 18-month, multi-stakeholder initiative, in partnership with the National Minority Quality Forum, designed to identify policies that can create equitable conditions in the health care ecosystem benefiting people with chronic diseases and disabilities.
The Initiative kicked off with a Consensus Statement on Health Equity signed by 58 CEOs of national patient advocacy groups, pledging to work together on four key policy areas based on the following guiding principle:
Our current health system came of age when racial segregation and many other forms of discrimination based on such things as gender identity and sexual orientation, disability, and other factors were sanctioned by custom and law. Widely practiced discrimination bred structured health disparities for racial groups and other populations whom the society decided to disadvantage. The U.S. health care system has dismantled the outward manifestation of segregated care so that race is no longer the explicit discriminator. However, the legacy system continues to bolster discriminatory practices and has replaced the language of segregation with new discriminators. These discriminators, such as location, personal income, and employment and insurance status, disproportionately impact the historically disadvantaged. The net result is that structured health disparities remain.
The equity challenges in health care today can be seen through the experience of DeJuan Patterson, an African American man from Baltimore, Maryland. “My patient journey began 15 years ago after a traumatic brain injury, when I learned quickly, I had to champion my own health care recovery experience,” said Mr. Patterson. “That inspired me to become an advocate for people dealing with incidents of disempowerment and disenfranchisement in the health care system. You need to meet people where they are. Health care institutions and practitioners want to do good, but not everyone knows the proper approach to reaching diverse populations and delivering the proper outcomes.”
Access, Affordability and Quality: A Patient-Focused Blueprint for Real Health Equity proposes key public policy solutions designed to rid the health care system of innate biases, and expand access, including:
- Advocating for equitable access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage.
- Promoting an inclusive, equitable, accessible, and high-quality care delivery system.
- Partnering with organizations that have a track record in addressing social determinants of health to reduce health disparities.
- Collaborating with the biomedical and health-services research and the health economics ecosystem to support equity in development and valuation of new and innovative treatments and services.
Each policy recommendation includes specific reforms that will open access to health care for disadvantaged populations, including:
- Requirements for insurers and providers to offer culturally and linguistically appropriate care, free of discrimination.
- Policies to address the implicit and explicit biases in the health care system.
- Reforms to reduce the number of uninsured individuals and increase the quality of insurance plans.
- Medicaid expansion.
- Improvements to create better and more efficient information sharing.
- The permanent continuation of telehealth options to help those who are challenged – physically or geographically – to get to their provider.
The NHC, working with and through the Health Equity Initiative, will continue to advocate for the reforms outlined in the report in 2022 and beyond.
About the National Health Council
Founded 100 years ago, the National Health Council (NHC) brings diverse organizations together to forge consensus and drive patient-centered health policy. The NHC provides a united voice for the more than 160 million people with chronic diseases and disabilities and their family caregivers. Made up of more than 140 national health-related organizations and businesses, the NHC’s core membership includes the nation’s leading patient advocacy organizations, which control its governance and policy-making process. Other members include health-related associations and nonprofit organizations including the provider, research, and family caregiver communities; and businesses representing biopharmaceutical, device, diagnostic, generic, and payer organizations.