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House Committee Approves Bill Aimed at Addressing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

On September 30, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved, by voice vote, a substitute amendment to a bill (H.R. 918) aimed at improving the prevention, early detection, and treatment of chronic diseases among health disparity populations.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the Patient Navigator, Outreach, and Chronic Disease Prevention Act would authorize funding through FY2008 for grants to provide individuals of health disparity populations with prevention, early detection, treatment, and appropriate follow-up care services for cancer and other chronic diseases. The bill also would allow states to extend Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program benefits to the parents of eligible children, pregnant women, all children up to the age of 20, residents at or below the federal poverty line, and legal immigrants.

H.R. 918 would require federal agencies and recipients of federal funds to collect data on race, ethnicity, and primary language. The bill also would expand the Offices of Civil Rights and Minority Health within the Department of Health and Human Services, and would create minority health offices within the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Offered by Health Subcommittee Chair Mike Bilirakis (R-FL), the substitute would specify that grants be used for community outreach to populations that have been identified as underserved or having health disparities, patient referrals for treatment, assistance for individuals at risk of developing cancer or other chronic diseases, and assistance for patients to overcome barriers within the health care system. The substitute also would eliminate the congressional findings on health care disparities in the United States that were included in the original bill. Under the substitute, the grant program would sunset on September 30, 2010.

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