Bradley attorney Dan Murphy was quoted in Health Law Daily on the challenges and strategies for addressing disparities in access to health care during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have pointed out that many of the issues surrounding health disparities are not new, but that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted existing issues that many in policy and research have already been trying to address.
Murphy pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive unemployment and the loss of employer-based health insurance for many. He further noted, "In addition, already inadequate levels of health care facilities and providers in underserved areas have been strained by the flood of COVID patients, which has resulted in further reduced capacity for patients to access health care that is not directly related to COVID."
Two of the major issues that impact disparities in access to health care are access to health care coverage and access to providers. Murphy stated that the "failure to expand Medicaid in a significant number of states [remains] a barrier to accessing health care for many." Murphy also noted that the potential for the Supreme Court to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) is a threat to the access to health care for many who are unable to obtain insurance without the ACA or who reside in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility, as allowed under the ACA.
Murphy said that "the lack of political consensus at the federal level and in many states for expanding access to care to underserved groups is the primary obstacle to addressing health inequities." However, Murphy expressed concern that even if there were a consensus, the "acute strain on federal, state, and local government finances caused by the COVID pandemic will make it even more difficult to fund initiatives to reduce health inequities."
According to Murphy, "while providers are better positioned to find and address inequities than ever before, they need support and incentives to do so from government health programs and commercial payors."
Murphy said that "federal agencies should freely share their patient claims data and other relevant information with providers so that they can identify health outcome disparities at a population and individual patient level." Murphy believes agencies should use the data collected to determine how to better provide resources to providers so they can address the identified health inequities.
The original article, “Strategic Perspectives: Challenges and Strategies for Addressing Disparities in Access to Health Care,” appeared in Health Law Daily on October 20, 2020.