Booker, Sewell Introduce Legislation to Advance Health Equity and Access to Care

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL-7th) introduced the John Lewis Equality in Medicare and Medicaid Treatment (EMMT) Act that would require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to work with experts to consider health disparities when developing payment models.


Established by the Affordable Care Act, CMMI works to develop, test, and implement new value-based payment models. Under current law, however, CMMI is not required to consider social determinants of health – such as a patient’s environment, education, and economic status – when implementing and testing new payment models. The current status quo incentivizes health providers to pick patients who will produce favorable clinical outcomes, which leaves women, people in rural communities, and Black and Brown people sidelined in the development of payment models. 


The John Lewis EMMT Act would direct CMMI to consult with experts on health disparities, such as the Office of Minority Health of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, and the Office on Women’s Health, on developing new payment models that focus not only on lowering costs but also advancing health equity and improving access to care.


“The current health care system contains numerous disparities in health equity and access to care, a fact that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Booker. “My dear colleague John Lewis understood this and fought to make our health care system fairer. I am proud to continue this fight with this bicameral legislation that would make critical reforms to our health care system, helping our nation address health disparities and improve health outcomes, especially for underserved communities.”


“Our late colleague, Congressman John Lewis, knew that in order to achieve true justice, we must be intentional about increasing access to health care for communities of color,” said Rep. Sewell. “As co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee’s Racial Equity Initiative, I’m committed to advancing his legacy by bringing health equity to the forefront of our policy agenda. By ensuring that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation considers the impact of new payment models on communities of color, the John Lewis Equality in Medicare and Medicaid Treatment Act will help us reduce racial disparities and build a fairer and more just health care system. I’m proud to join Senator Booker in introducing this bill and urge my colleagues to give it their full support.”


“Movement is Life commends Senator Booker for his outstanding leadership on health equity,” said Mary O’Connor, MD and Chair of Movement is Life.“Ensuring that the CMS Innovation Center develops and tests health payment models which do not exacerbate health disparities is essential to achieving health equity. On behalf of the millions of Americans who are hurt by the discrimination currently embedded in our healthcare system by these biased payment models, thank you.”


Specifically, the John Lewis Equality in Medicare and Medicaid Treatment Act directs CMMI to:

·       Consider a model’s impact on access to care for people of color, women, and people in rural areas, in addition to cost and quality.

·       Include experts in health disparities and social determinants of health during the evaluation and review process for new payment models.

·       Directs CMMI to create a Social Determinants of Health Model that focuses on health conditions of those dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare, behavioral health, and maternal mortality.


The John Lewis Equality in Medicare and Medicaid Treatment Act is supported by the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, The Root Cause Coalition, the National Black Nurses Association, the Osteoarthritis Action Allianceand the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. The legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).


Full text of the legislation can be found here.



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