Minority Press

Casey Holds Hearing on Racial Health Disparities During COVID-19, Emphasizes Importance of Health Care Coverage

Pittsburgh Health Leader Testifies on Health Disparities, Vulnerabilities in Nation’s Health Care System


Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a hearing entitled, “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Seniors: A Look at Racial Health Disparities.” During the hearing, Senator Casey highlighted how the Trump Administration and Republican sabotage of the Affordable Care Act has erected barriers between communities of color and accessible health care, and how this sabotage has exacerbated the deadly impact of the virus for older Americans of color.

“We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and there is an effort by this Administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act through the courts, a law that, according to the Commonwealth Fund, has ‘led to historic reductions in racial disparities in coverage and access since 2014,’” said Senator Casey. “We live in the most powerful nation in the world, and yet we cannot guarantee our citizens access to affordable health care. That is unconscionable. The structural inequities that have existed in this country since its inception are causing this crisis to be more severe among people of color, and too many Black and Latinx seniors are dying from COVID in nursing homes. We have to do better to keep Americans of color safe.”

According to the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, of the COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania that report race or ethnicity, Black Pennsylvanians make up 28 percent of the cases and 21 percent of the deaths, despite being 11 percent of the population. Hispanic Pennsylvanians account for 26 percent of the cases of COVID-19, where race was reported, although they make up 7 percent of the PA population.

Senator Casey invited Rodney Jones, the CEO of East Liberty Family Health Center Center (ELFHCC) in Pittsburgh, PA to testify. Mr. Jones detailed how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated racial health disparities in the U.S. “The virus has become a ‘flashpoint’ on racial inequities, financial inequities and Social Determinants of Health. COVID-19 has exposed our healthcare system’s vulnerabilities and revealed our inability to respond effectively to a pandemic. It has also highlighted the fact that low income older adults and older adults of color have suffered in significantly greater proportion than their white counterparts,” said Mr. Jones. “Much of the care that providers have delivered over the past decade has been bolstered because Congress took action to expand access to health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. It is with this coverage that ELFHCC has been able to reach an even larger population, including older adults of color, and deliver the care they need. In Pennsylvania and for health center patients that is especially so due to the Governor’s decision to expand Medicaid.”