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Wolf Administration Releases COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Report

August 13, 2020

A new report from the Wolf Administration seeks to address some of the racial and socioeconomic disparities that have been exposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a news conference in York County today, Governor Tom Wolf, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, MD, and Second Lady Giselle Fetterman announced the completion of the report and highlighted some of the key recommendations.

Beginning during April, the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Response Task Force for Health Disparity met to discuss the pandemic’s toll on a variety of communities. The task force included representatives from the Governor’s Advisory Commissions on Latino Affairs, Asian Pacific American Affairs, African American Affairs, and LGBTQ Affairs, as well as the Commission on Women.

The report makes policy recommendations in six different subject areas, including:

  • Housing
  • Criminal justice
  • Food insecurity
  • Health disparities
  • Education
  • Economic opportunities

Barriers to COVID-19 testing are a key component of the report’s health care analysis. The report acknowledges the challenges in meeting a high demand for testing, including access to tests and issues with long wait times for test results. It also underscores the disproportionate impact that this has on individuals and families who do not have paid sick time to use while they await test results or while they quarantine after a positive result.

Health-related policy recommendations include:

  • Continuing Alternative Payment Arrangements
  • Expanding critical care capacity
  • Supporting telehealth and teaching seniors to access the technology
  • Exploring the possibility of increasing physical and mental health care payments as a way to boost access to community health providers
  • Tracking race, ethnicity, and identity data, and disaggregating Asian health data
  • Distributing to community-based health care providers free personal protective equipment and testing supplies
  • Increasing funding for organizations that can connect immigrant communities with health care providers, and support language access for individuals with limited English proficiency

The report also recommends providing information in multiple languages about the Trump Administration’s “public charge” rule in its outreach. The public charge rule could impact the ability of legal (lawfully present) immigrants to get a green card or become a citizen based on the extent to which they access and rely upon public benefits.

HAP will closely review the recommendations of this report as it works with member hospitals to promote initiatives to address health disparities in the communities they serve.

For more information, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s senior vice president, strategic integration, or Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.