Laura Richardson

Equal Rights for Health Care Act: Title 42 - June 9, 2009

Laura Richardson
June 09, 2009— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce H.R. 2744, the Equal Rights for Health Care Act--Title 42. The concept of equal rights is a pillar of our Nation and the reason why so many immigrate here to the United States.

Indeed, the U.S. was founded on the principle that all Americans should have the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In order to enjoy this blessing of life and liberty, however, one must be healthy, and that means they have the benefit of equal treatment and research.

For example, men and women have different symptoms when it comes to heart disease. Unlike men, most women do not experience chest pain. Instead, 71 percent of the women report having flu-like symptoms, and patients, doctors, and researchers need to make sure that emergency attendants, tests, and prescription drugs are informed about the differences that we might have.

H.R. 2744, the Equal Rights for Health Care Act--Title 42, will prohibit discrimination in health care services and research programs that receive Federal funding based upon sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status.

Civil rights laws have historically been a powerful mechanism for effecting necessary change in the United States. Each law represents a national commitment to end discrimination and to establish a mandate to bring the excluded into the mainstream. These equal rights laws ensure that the Federal Government delivers on the Constitution's promise of equal opportunities so that every individual has the right to develop his or her talents. Health care should be no exception.

In 1971, only 18 percent of women, compared to 26 percent of men, had completed 4 years or more of college. In 1972, the title IX amendment was introduced by Representatives Edith Green of Oregon and Patsy Mink of Hawaii. In 1980, I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I played on the women's basketball team. I witnessed firsthand that there was a difference between playing on the women's team and the men's team. For example, for women, we had to travel in two or three vans to go to all of our away games, where the men were allowed to fly on a plane. You might say why is that something that was important? Well, we lost instruction time, we had time in general lost, preparation was lost, and recuperation was lost. That's why title IX was so important.

In 2007, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of title IX, which assured the women's right to education equality. And the U.S. Department of Education showed that 56 percent of all women, compared to 44 percent of men, now have achieved 4 years or more of college. So title IX has been working.

Federal law prohibits discrimination across a wide array of public policy arenas, none more than when you consider the difference between voting, public education, and now what we should do in health care.

H.R. 2744, the Equal Rights for Health Care Act--Title 42, seeks to have the same effect on the health care community. Despite access to health care, patients are not always in geographic proximity to medical facilities that can provide the consistent care that is needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the age-adjusted death rate for all cancers for African Americans in 2001 was 20 percent higher than Caucasian Americans. In 2002, the percentage of Hispanics and Latinos who were 65 years or older and received adult immunization shots was only 47 percent, as compared to 70 percent of Caucasians.

In 2000, the infant mortality rate among Native Hawaiians was 60 percent higher than Caucasians.

And the rate of leg amputations as a result of diabetes is four times greater of African Americans who receive Medicare than their counterparts, Caucasians.

A list of disparities can go on and on, and so we must put an end to this inequality. Therefore, I have introduced H.R. 2744 so that Congress can take another step towards equal rights, and I look forward to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle joining me.

I'm proud to have a long list of diverse organizations that are supporting this legislation, groups such as the Family Equality Council, the Families United States of America, and, lastly, the National Minority Quality Forum.

I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation that ensures that equal services once and for all will also extend to health care as well, from diagnosis to treatment, and it's a part of the fast-growing health care debate. It's important that a statement of beliefs is made when we reform health care. Equality must be a founding principle, and we must insist that as health care debates move forward, we take the time to ensure that all Americans have the same rights. Let's move forward on title XLII as we did in title IX.

155 Congr. Rec. H6378. (2009).