Maryland lawmakers push for bill to reduce health care disparities
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – With the start of legislative session still four months away, some Maryland lawmakers are already preparing to present a bill before the General Assembly to reduce health care disparities in the state.
“We’re at a pivotal point where we need to do something about that and this particular legislation can help in that manner,” said Speaker Pro Tem, Sheree Sample-Hughes (D-District 37A).
Delegate Erek Barron, who serves as the lead House sponsor for the bill, says the COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light on the difference of access to quality healthcare between communities of color and others.
“All of the health disparities that plague people of color make us more vulnerable in this pandemic,” said Barron (D-District 24).
If passed, the bill would create Health Equity Resource Communities throughout the state that would be eligible for grants, tax incentives, and health provider loan repayment assistance.
“Whatever we can do to get the resources where they need to be, educate the people on what is available, then the stronger our community is going to be,” said Sample-Hughes.
Eastern Shore lawmakers tell 47 ABC they’ve seen a direct correlation of a lack of access to quality healthcare over the years and the effects it has had on communities of color since the start of COVID-19.
“Minorities are more affected with having underlying health issues that have not been properly addressed prior to leading up to it. That’s why we’re seeing such a huge increase in minorities, specifically the African American community, being heavily affected,” said Sample-Hughes.
In order to fund this initiative, lawmakers are proposing a 1% increase in the state’s alcohol tax.
“Let’s make this permanent. Let’s invest in it. And the return on investment helps everyone,” said Barron.
An investment they say can make big changes.
“It’s low-cost investments like that, that can yield big dividends in a pandemic,” said Barron.