WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to close the gaps in our health care system that have left behind minorities and underserved communities by incentivizing increased health provider participation in disadvantaged areas. The Health Enterprise Zones Act would direct the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to accept applications for and designate Health Enterprise Zones (HEZs) in areas with measurable and documented health disparities and poor health outcomes. The legislation is sponsored by Representative Anthony Brown (D-Md.-03) in the House of Representatives.
“The COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on the severity of the inequities in our nation’s health care system,” said Senator Padilla. “But inequitable access to quality, affordable health care long predates the pandemic. Centuries of structural and systemic racism continue to result in poorer health outcomes in communities of color. That is why our bill would incentivize health care providers to bring more services to structurally disadvantaged areas.”
“For far too long, communities of color and underserved populations have faced unacceptable barriers in our health care system,” said Representative Brown. “From access, to diagnosis, treatment, and ultimate medical outcomes – these disparities have resulted in preventable deaths and hardship for families. This is unacceptable. We need long term solutions to address the inequities that have plagued our society for far too long. I appreciate Senator Padilla’s partnership on this legislation that will work towards providing the quality, affordable health care that all Americans deserve. Prioritizing health equity must be a permanent part of our strategy to improve care and health outcomes.”
The Health Enterprise Zones Act would:
Define HEZs as areas with an average income below 150% of the poverty line, WIC participation that is higher than the national average, lower life expectancy than average, or more instances of lower birth rate than average;
Incentivize providers to practice in HEZs through federal grants, employee tax credits, a 10% Medicare reimbursement bonus, and student loan repayment.
The legislation is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Maryland Hospital Association, American Heart Association, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, American Public Health Association, Families USA, and Pipeline Health System.