Massachusetts Medical Society: MMS Testimony in Support of Senate 1114, An Act to Eliminate Health Disparities in the Commonwealth

MMS Testimony in Support of Senate 1114, An Act to Eliminate Health Disparities in the Commonwealth

Before the Health Care Financing Committee

The Massachusetts Medical Society wishes to be recorded in support of S.1114, legislation that would establish an Office of Health Equity in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to provide both coordination of – and accountability for – all state efforts to reduce health disparities based on race, ethnicity or disability.  This legislation would also build upon the Health Reform Law (Chapter 58 of the Laws of 2006) by incorporating the Health Disparities Council established by that measure as an on-going advisory body to the Office of Health Equity.  In addition, it would mandate a number of important initiatives that would help the Office to achieve its goal.

The Society’s House of Delegates has a long standing Policy “that the MMS support the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health care as an issue of high priority.”  This Policy was adopted for good reason!  

It has long been clear from the medical literature that racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are at greater risk of death and disease from a variety of illnesses, and that they often do not receive the same quality of health care as do other patients. These disparities continue and include access to appropriate cancer diagnostic tests and treatment; screening, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions for heart disease and stroke; diabetes care; clinical procedures for cerebrovascular disease; HIV care; renal transplantation; asthma care; and, a range of other preventive and specialty health services such as: maternal and child health care, immunizations, mental health, rehabilitative services, long-term care, and pain management.  

The MMS served as an active member of the State Commission on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities since its inception in 2004 and in the Health Disparities Council established by Chapter 58.  The Society also continues to participate in the national Commission to End Health Care Disparities, led by the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association and the National Hispanic Medical Association.  The recommendations embodied in S.1114 derive from the 2007 Final Report of the State Commission and would go a long way towards the reduction and eventual elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities.  In addition to coordination and oversight, the Office of Health Equity would review proposed state activities regarding their impact on health disparities, promote health literacy and issue an annual “report card” assessing progress made.  The Office would also provide grants to community agencies to conduct research and to recruit and train community health workers.

Supporting S.1114 will also be in keeping with the national efforts by HHS and its Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. This action plan is aimed at reducing the health disparities that affect people in the United States. The report includes five goals to eliminate disparities:

  • Transform Health
  • Strengthen the Nation’s Health and Human Services Infrastructure and Workforce 
  •  Advance the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of the American People
  •  Advance Scientific Knowledge and Innovation 
  • Increase Efficiency, Transparency, and Accountability of HHS Programs

We urge you to act favorably on S.1114.  

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