WASHINGTON – Today, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) applauds Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (HI) for introducing the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2018 (HEAA)(S.3660). The bill serves as a comprehensive plan to eliminate health and health care disparities by building on previous health care access and quality improvement strategies. Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13) introduced the bill (H.R. 5942) in the House earlier this year in May, joined by 67 cosponsors, on behalf of the Congressional Tri-Caucus, made up of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Over 300 national, state and local organizations have signed on with APIAHF to support the bill.

“We commend Senator Hirono, Congresswoman Lee and the Congressional Tri-Caucus for their leadership and commitment to putting us on a path toward health equity,” said Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO. “Now more than ever, HEAA is needed to both build upon the historic reforms achieved by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to look beyond them to truly create a more equitable health system for our nation.”

For over a decade, the Congressional Tri-Caucus has led reintroduction of the HEAA each Congress. In 2011, APIAHF worked with CAPAC to update the HEAA to reflect significant gains in health access through the ACA and has continued to lead national advocacy for the bill. In 2017 and 2018, APIAHF renewed that partnership by leading health equity advocates to strengthen HEAA to meet today’s health challenges. Today’s Senate introduction marks the first time there has been a Senate companion since 2011.

Health equity can only be achieved through understanding the various factors that impact individual and community health including immigration status, age, disability, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, language and socio-economic status. The ten titles of HEAA address every facet of health care and its delivery system. HEAA will eliminate barriers to affordable health insurance coverage, promote investments in innovative health delivery methods and technologies and advance research and data collection about the health needs and outcomes of diverse communities.

The 2018 bill builds on previous efforts and includes new sections to ensure that the current drive to improve health care quality contains a corresponding focus on disparities elimination and addresses the need to protect sensitive locations for immigrant communities seeking health care.

HEAA serves as a legislative blueprint to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities and to create a sustainable health care system that can pave the road to health equity. Individual provisions of HEAA have been enacted into law, including reimbursement for language services under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), enhanced data collection requirements in federal health surveys and elevation of the Office of Minority Health to the Office of the Secretary of HHS in the ACA.

Senate Cosponsors for this bill are: Sen. Blumenthal (CT), Sen. Booker (NJ), Sen. Brown (OH), Sen. Cardin (MD), Sen. Duckworth (IL), Sen. Gillibrand (NY), Sen. Harris (CA), Sen. Kaine (VA) and Sen. Merkley (OR).