A new study by Altarum and the Episcopal Health Foundation has pinpointed shocking, tangible numbers to what we’ve known for months — that COVID-19 has disproportionately and devastatingly impacted the Black and Hispanic communities in Texas.
The study, published late in 2020, estimates that if Black and Hispanic Texans had the same mortality rates of COVID-19 as Whites, there would have been 5,000 fewer deaths in our state alone by the end of September 2020.
There are additional consequences beyond the loss of life, including the financial impact health disparities in these communities have cost families, businesses, the government and all Texans. Though economic losses pale in importance when compared to the cost of human lives, the numbers are still crucial to consider — this latest report estimates $2.7 billion in excess medical spending, and about $5 billion in lost productivity, due to health disparities.
The comparatively higher rates of underlying health conditions and lack of health insurance in Black and Hispanic communities in Texas is often brought up to explain the racial disparities of COVID-19. But this report highlights several underreported reasons for the disparate impact which are critical to understand in order for legislators to come up with effective solutions.
For example, Black and Hispanic Texans are also more likely to:
- work front-line jobs;
- reside in crowded, multigenerational housing;
- use public transportation; and
- experience underlying health conditions.
Each of these circumstances represent significant risk factors in contracting COVID-19.
Expanding Medicaid would be hugely impactful for all Texans, and especially Blacks and Hispanics. Bringing down available federal dollars would help uninsured, low-income populations access the life-saving care that has become even more necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, more must be done to specifically study and address social determinants of health that create such a divide in health outcomes in our state.
Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston) and Rep, Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) are working with other legislators to re-establish the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagements via House Bill 202. The OMHSE, which was defunded in 2017, would allow the state to respond to the racial disparities in health outcomes more effectively.
The Altarum/EHF report recommends policies that would encompass health holistically — from ensuring safe housing, to regulating air and water quality, to providing affordable, healthy foods and pushing employers to prioritize the health of their employees.
The Texas HDC looks forward to supporting all Members in their efforts to equalize health outcomes among all Texans during the 87th Legislative Session.
The following is a non-comprehensive list of legislation filed by members of the Texas HDC that address health equity in Texas.
H.B. 87 by Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City)
Relating to requiring certain employers to provide paid sick leave to employees; providing administrative and civil penalties.
H.B. 155 by Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas)
Relating to the office of minority statistics and engagement in the Department of Family and Protective Services.
H.B. 194 by Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)
Relating to continuing education in cultural competence and implicit bias for certain physicians.
H.B. 197 by Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)
Relating to medical education coursework and training for physicians in cultural competence and implicit bias.
H.B. 202 by Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)
Relating to renaming the Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities to the office of health equity and to the duties of that office.
H.B. 420 by Rep. Carl Sherman Sr. (D-DeSoto)
Relating to the establishment of a task force on maternal mortality in African American women.
H.B. 710 by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
Relating to statements on the impact of legislation on childhood racial disparity.
H.B. 727 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville)
Relating to the establishment of a border public health initiative by the Department of State Health Services.
H.B. 728 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville)
Relating to public health laboratory testing capabilities in certain counties.
H.B. 729 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville)
Relating to the establishment of a border public health response team.
H.B. 734 by Rep. Jessica González (D-Dallas)
Relating to the Medicaid eligibility of certain persons who are lawfully present in the United States.