February 13, 2007

CARDIN CALLS ON HHS SEC. LEAVITT TO ADDRESS RACIAL AND ETHNIC DISPARITIES IN HEALTH CARE

Widespread Disparities Exist in Maryland and Across Nation

Oren Shur: 202-224-4524

Susan Sullam: 410-962-4436


WASHINGTON - At a hearing today before the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt for again failing to address widespread racial and ethnic health disparities in his testimony to Congress. In Maryland and across the nation today, minority communities have less access to quality health care and are far more likely to suffer from a variety of diseases.

"There are very clear disparities in our health care system today and they fall along racial and ethnic lines," said Sen. Cardin. "African Americans and Latino Americans in particular have less access to quality health care and are more likely to suffer from a host of diseases. This is wrong. But instead of taking action to close the gaps we all know exist, the Bush Administration has submitted another budget that fails to address them. In fact, the President's budget slashes funding for programs vital to training minority health care providers. I am disappointed that Sec. Leavitt failed to even acknowledge racial and ethnic disparities in his testimony today before the Budget Committee."

According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, persons from communities of color are more likely to be uninsured and are more likely to experience disparities in the quality of care. The study showed that members of minority communities suffer from higher infant mortality rates than Caucasians and African Americans experience disproportionately high death rates from heart disease and cancer.

Ethnic and racial health disparities also exist in Maryland. For example, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, African American Marylanders suffer from significantly higher rates of asthma, diabetes and obesity than Caucasians in the state.

At today's Budget Committee hearing, Sen. Cardin also criticized the Administration's decision to slash funding for minority health professions training from $145 million appropriated by Congress in FY2006 and FY2007 to only $10 million for FY2008. These programs are vital to training minority health care providers and helping close gaps in access to care in underserved communities.