Washington, D.C…. Last Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Xavier Becerra joined leaders from disability organizations for a virtual roundtable discussion. Becerra first thanked the leaders for their time and counsel, their fight to make sure all people in this country are included when discussing access to quality health care, and for their critical work in helping to ensure that the Biden-Harris pandemic response is equitable and effective for the communities they serve.
Participants noted the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on people with disabilities, particularly around access to care and equity of services — exacerbating the already glaring inequities people with disabilities already face in our health care system. They also noted that, as people recover from the COVID-19 virus, many have and will join the nearly 61 million disabled people in the nation due to the conditions they acquire.
Participants also raised the unintentional but avoidable barriers to access at vaccine centers including ensuring communication and allowing access to aides. Others expressed the urgent and unique need to address challenges in care, including emergency regulations that extend beyond nursing homes to include home care facilities, group homes, assisted living facilities and other congregate care facilities. Many participants highlighted the need for thorough and comprehensive data collection to address inequity in care and services and an increase in resources for in-home and community-based services. Participants were pleased that the Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan included adult dependents for direct stimulus funds and praised Becerra for his work to pass and subsequently defend the Affordable Care Act throughout his career.
Additionally, Becerra affirmed participants’ comments that the Biden-Harris administration is centering equity in its response to the pandemic and health care. He understands and takes seriously the need for partnership as they look to course correct the role and function of HHS in addressing the needs of Americans, defending the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring access to quality, affordable health care.
Representatives from the following organizations, along with other individual advocates for people with disabilities, joined the secretary-designate:
- Center for Public Representation
- Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
- American Association of People with Disabilities
- The Arc of the United States
- National Council on Independent Living
- Epilepsy Foundation
- National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- Justice in Aging
- United Spinal Association
- National Disability Rights Network
- National Association of the Deaf
- Association of University Centers on Disability
- Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies
- Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
- New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc.
- National Health Law Program