Sen. Bill Frist Responds to Newspaper Article About Health Disparities Bill in Letter to the Editor
Legislators should take a "comprehensive approach" to eliminating health care disparities, focusing not only on race or ethnicity, but also on geographic and socioeconomic factors, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in a letter to the editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (Frist, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/10). The Times-Picayune on March 30 examined the "growing controversy" over a bill (S 2091) sponsored by Frist that aims to address health disparities in the United States. According to Frist, the bill would improve health education and research opportunities for minorities, increase access to quality health care, improve racial health disparities data collection, allow for more public-private partnerships on the issue and make permanent the HHS Office of Minority Health. The Times-Picayune reported that the bill would eliminate references to "underserved minority populations" from a 2000 law and replace them with "racial and ethnic minorities or health disparity populations," which can include low-income white people. Some African-American and Hispanic members of Congress have said that changes to current law called for under the bill "would make poverty a bigger part of the [health disparities] equation," possibly "diluting already scarce health care resources and overlooking key issues that put minorities at a disadvantage," the Times-Picayune reported (California Healthline, 3/30). In his letter, Frist says there is "clear and compelling" evidence that disparities exist in racial and ethnic minority populations; however, "[a]ll disparities are unacceptable" and must be addressed, he adds. Frist writes that he hopes the bill will "make further bipartisan progress toward eliminating disparities that plague [the] health care system -- regardless of their cause" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 4/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.