Capitol Correspondence - 07.21.20

HHS Releases New Guidelines in Response to Racial Disparities in Impact of COVID-19

Share this page

In recent months, heightened attention has been paid to the ways in which systems and structures negatively impact the experiences of people of color in the US. In the specific context of health, this focus has been sharpened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had significant and disproportionate impacts on communities of color, which are more likely to contract and die from the virus, and less likely to have access to quality health care.

Because of these dynamics, andbecause we know ANCOR members are dialed into ways to promote equity for Black and indigenous people and people of color, we are sharing this reporting from POLITICO Pro about new steps the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is taking to address racial disparities in COVID-19 care. 


“HHS on Monday released guidelines for federally funded health care providers aimed at preventing discrimination based on race, color and national origin during the pandemic.

Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights, said the rules are a response to the ‘higher infection rates and death rates’ the government documented in vulnerable populations, especially African Americans, Native Americans and Latino.

The details: Under the rules released this morning, state and local agencies, hospitals and other health care providers that receive federal funding have to create proactive policies preventing racial discrimination.

Amid reports of ‘testing deserts’ and hours-long lines for Covid-19 tests in communities of color in hard-hit states, the rules also require that testing sites be accessible to everyone and not have ‘excessive wait times.’ Severino noted that HHS has recently set aside more than half a billion dollars for testing in predominantly minority communities.

The rules also prohibit patients from requesting a physician or roommate of a particular race.

‘We have to make sure that sort of blunt racism doesn’t come back to the health care system,’ Severino said, referencing the segregated wards and hospitals of decades past. ‘Not a penny should go to racial discrimination when it comes to the provision of health care in America.’

What happens now: Severino said his office has seen an ‘uptick’ in complaints of racial discrimination in health care over the past few months and are actively investigating multiple cases now — though he declined to elaborate.”