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Pallone Says Federal Government Can Do More to Eliminate Health Care Disparities

April 13, 2004
Press Release

Asbury Park, N.J. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said the federal government should be doing more to help state and local governments address the increasing disparities in health care for our nation's minority populations. Today, the New Jersey congressman met with public health officials, healthcare professionals and patients at the Community Health Center of Asbury Park to hear how the Center confronts this growing problem. Pallone also wanted get feedback on comprehensive legislation that he helped write as co-chair of the Democratic Health Care Task Force that strives to reduce health disparities and improve the quality of care for racial and ethnic minorities.

"All Americans deserve equal treatment in health care, but our current system has created severe disparities along racial and ethnic lines in overall health care access, quality and outcomes," Pallone said. "State and local centers, like the Community Health Center of Asbury Park, have been doing their best to combat this increasing gap. I worked with more than a dozen of my Democratic colleagues in both the House and Senate to write comprehensive legislation that takes aggressive steps to eliminate these disparities. It's time Washington, Congressional Republicans in particular, step forward and finally address this issue."

The Pallone-sponsored "Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act of 2003" would address health disparities in minority communities by:

Expanding health coverage. The bill would give states the option to expand eligibility and streamline enrollment in Medicaid and the State Childrens Health Insurance Program. Specifically, the bill would give States the option to cover uninsured parents who have children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP; pregnant women; children through age 20; residents at or below the federal poverty line; and legal immigrants.

Removing language and cultural barriers and improving workforce diversity. The bill would standardize regulations for culturally and linguistically appropriate health care and assist health care professionals to provide cultural and language services. The bill would also expand existing programs and create new ones to address the shortage of minority health care providers.

Funding programs to reduce health disparities. In addition to disease-specific initiatives, the bill would create programs with the overall goal of reducing or eliminating health disparities, including providing grants for community initiatives, funding programs to help patients with cancer and chronic diseases to navigate the health care system, and establishing health empowerment zones.

Strengthening health institutions that serve minority populations. The bill would establish loan and grant programs as well as quality improvement initiatives for health institutions that provide substantial care to minority populations.

Despite a substantial need for health care, minority groups in New Jersey often encounter obstacles in obtaining health care. A March 2003 U.S. Census Bureau report found that minority populations in New Jersey--Hispanics (32.2 percent), African Americans (20.7 Percent), and Asian/Pacific Islanders (14.5 percent)--all have substantially higher uninsured rates than white New Jerseyans (11.3 percent).