COVID-19 racial disparities: Lawmakers call for action

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Some congressional lawmakers say they aren’t surprised by new data showing that African Americans are at greater risk of dying from the coronavirus.

“I think this pandemic has highlighted many of the underlying concerns that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus have been talking about for decades,” U.S. Rep. Andre Carson said.

Carson says poor housing conditions, lack of resources and underlying health conditions in black communities created a perfect storm for the virus.

“Our asthma rates are higher, diabetes rates are higher, hypertension,” Carson said.

African Americans make up more than 70% of deaths in Chicago, Milwaukee and Louisiana.

U.S. Rep Emanuel Cleaver says a lack of health insurance could be why.

“When they go a doctor, if it’s to the emergency room,” Cleaver said. “They’re going there when everything’s been exacerbated, when their bodies is just about been worn out.”

NAACP Vice President for Advocacy and Policy Hilary Shelton highlights that a higher proportion of African Americans are unemployed and many are gig workers who do not have health insurance.

“The African American community is disproportionally unemployed, so to think about the resources necessary for health care that normally comes to so many millions of Americans through their jobs — We don’t have that, so as a result, we’re disproportionately now being affected,” Shelton said.

Cleaver says access to healthcare should not be politicized.

“Forget about Obama and Obamacare. We’re talking about peoples lives,” Cleaver said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, black Americans are one and a half times more likely to be uninsured than white Americans.

“I think we need to get beyond political talking points and address the core root of this issue and it has to do with the lack of having health care for all,” Carson said.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin says the country needs more information about how different groups are being affected.

“We need to make reforms,” Baldwin said. “The CDC has not been forthcoming.”

Baldwin and the Congressional Black Caucus are calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and all states to include racial data in their pandemic reports.

“It shouldn’t take a pandemic to wake people up to the fact that these inequities exist,” Baldwin said. “(This is) exactly why we pursued policies like the Affordable Care Act that would provide incentive for everyone to have coverage.”

Congressional Black Caucus leaders say right now, they are in talks with leadership to address racial disparities.

Lawmakers are also urging congressional leaders to boost funding for healthcare centers to prevent more deaths.

Tuesday, the President Donald Trump acknowledged the high number of African American deaths. Dr. Fauci added that these health disparities must be addressed.

The White house says it’s exploring other options.

Rep. Carson talks including more resources in next stimulus package.

“What we need to do is make sure that we’re addressing these underline issues as we move forward and have more resources to test individuals so folks aren’t being sent home because hospitals and health care facilities lack the resources to address these issues,but the folks that are being sent home are left to die because of other underlying issues have not been met in a satisfactory way.” Carson said.

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