Support Kennedy Amendment and End Minority Health Disparities

Categories: Advocacy Letter

Recipient: U.S. Senate

Dear Senator:

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, strongly supports Senator Kennedy’s health disparities/minority health amendment to the Fiscal 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.J. Res. 2), which will end health disparities in America by the year 2010. We believe that it is essential to increase funds for minority health priorities that have been ignored and undercut in the current proposal.

Racial health disparities are worse than ever. Minorities, a quarter of our population, account for two-thirds of new AIDS cases. The infant mortality rate for African Americans is twice that of whites. Diabetes is twice as likely to afflict Hispanics than it is whites. African American men suffer prostate cancer at twice the rate of white men. Our country must live up to the promise and commitment to assure every American access to quality health care.

Senator Kennedy’s amendment seeks to restore the cuts in the FY2003 budget in minority health programs. H.J. Res. 2 cuts the HHS Office of Minority Health by $5 million, a ten percent cut to the nerve center of the Federal response to racial health disparities. The current bill also cuts health discrimination enforcement at the HHS Office of Civil Rights by $1 million, gutting civil rights enforcement and leaving uninvestigated more than a thousand individual complaints of health discrimination by Americans.

We urge you to support the Kennedy amendment that would:


  • Increase funding for the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities by $43 million. The Center is a leader in ending disparities, but only receives a disgraceful 0.7 percent of the NIH budget;

  • Increase funding for the HHS Office of Minority Health by $20 million, and direct HHS to restart its partnership to end disparities by 2010. This would fund over 140 new grantees and reach more than 180,000 additional people of color;

  • Fully fund the Minority HIV/AIDS Health Initiative, which has increased in the past to meet the growing threat of AIDS. In the omnibus bill, it is flat funded;

  • Increase funding for the HHS Office of Civil Rights, which in 2001 was unable to investigate more than half of the complaints it received ? an incredible 1,141 out of a total of 2,148 individual complaints of discrimination; and

  • Increase funding for health training for minority professionals, Historically Black Schools and Hispanic Centers of Excellence, by 17 percent, from $122 million to $135 million. In contrast, the Bush Administration proposed a 90 percent cut, and the omnibus bill provides only a token increase.


Again, please support Senator Kennedy’s health disparities/minority health amendment to end health disparities. If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Deputy Director/Director of Public Policy at (202) 263-2880.

Sincerely,

Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Chairperson

Wade Henderson, Executive Director