Congress Passes Minority Health Bill After Procedural Delay
After an unexpected delay earlier this week, a bill that would expand research and education on the factors contributing to health disparities in minority and medically underserved populations passed the House by voice vote late on Oct. 31, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Consitution reports. The bill includes a provision to establish a center at the NIH to study health disparties among minority populations (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/1). According to CongressDaily/A.M., S. 1880, or the "minority health bill," had originally appeared to be "relatively non-controversial [and] bipartisan," and passed the Senate by unanimous consent Oct. 26. But House Commerce Chair Thomas Bliley (R-Va.) -- a sponsor of the bill, along with Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) -- pulled the measure from the House suspension calendar Monday after the Conservative Action Team warned House members that the "bill contains racial set-asides and quotas for grant programs and loan repayment programs." CAT executive director Neil Bradley, who wrote the e-mail, said "some members don't like it because ... not in all instances is it race-neutral." Sen. Frist countered that the bill is "targeted to minorities" because "recent studies have demonstrated that minority populations, in addition to having lower rates of health care access, exhibit poorer health outcomes and may have higher rates of HIV/AIDS, diabetes, infant mortality, death from cancer and heart disease, and other health problems" than the population at large. In addition, supporters said "several provisions" of the bill also address medically underserved groups such as "the predominantly white Appalachian population." According to a Bliley spokesperson, the bill was originally pulled for "strictly procedural" reasons, adding, "The Senate did their work on it and the leadership decided to put this (bill) on the calendar, but no one ever notified the committee." With the house passage, the bill goes to President Clinton for signing (Fulton/Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 11/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.