Left Out: Ways and Means Committee Releases Report Exploring Health System Inequities

July 15, 2020 by Reece Nations

Challenges faced by residents of rural and underserved communities regarding barriers to health care were analyzed in a report released by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The report, entitled “Left Out: Barriers to Health Equity for Rural and Underserved Communities”, examined many cross-sector and historically rooted difficulties leading to adverse health outcomes in these communities.

Some of the circumstances mentioned in the report that lead to these adverse outcomes include geographic coverage deficiencies, environmental factors and workforce shortages. The committee’s report also found that non-White residents of underserved localities had health outcomes and statuses that were “often exponentially worse than their White counterparts.”

Those residing within these communities must cope with “persistent disparities in prenatal and maternal health outcomes” that contribute to poorer health statuses overall, the report said. In comparison to those residing in communities with greater access to health resources, individuals in underserved communities are more likely to prematurely die from heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease and accidental injuries.

“Severe inequity exists in our nation when it comes to the accessibility and affordability of health care,” Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who chairs the committee, and ranking member Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said in a joint statement. “Earlier this year, we formed a bipartisan task force to examine the delivery and financing of health services in urban and rural underserved areas.”

“Now, we urge stakeholders from across the country to provide their input on priority topics that affect health status and outcomes for the task force to consider and discuss,” the statement continued. “The submissions we receive will support our members’ work identifying the causes of health care disparities and developing strategies to close gaps in care that exist between certain communities.”

Although the U.S. spends nearly twice as much on health care as similar, well-developed countries, health outcomes continue to be comparatively worse. This notion is exacerbated by aging infrastructure, economic disinvestment and higher burdens of chronic conditions in these areas.

The report was derived from qualitative analysis taken from almost 200 responses received from a formal request for information. The COVID-19 pandemic has further magnified health-related disparities in underserved communities.

“The devastating coronavirus pandemic has forced the deeply-rooted health inequities in our society to the forefront of the national conversation, making the need for solutions more urgent than ever,” Neal said. “This landmark report is an important first step in taking meaningful action toward achieving health and economic equity across our country. The committee will draw on these findings to create policies that make optimal health a reality for all Americans and eliminate inequities based on race and geography.” 

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