Equal access to quality health care is a crucial issue facing the United States. For too long, too many Americans have been denied equal access to quality health care on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender. Cultural incompetence of health care providers, socioeconomic inequities, disparate impact of facially neutral practices and policies, misunderstanding of civil rights laws, and intentional discrimination contribute to disparities in health status, access to health care services, participation in health research, and receipt of health care financing. This disparity in health care is doubly significant given the devastating racial disparity in health status that exists. The combination of racial disparity in health status, institutional racism in health care and inadequate legal protection points to serious human rights violations under the “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”(CERD or Convention).
U.S. health policy is inconsistent with several provisions of CERD, including virtually all of Articles 2 and 5. Federal agencies have repeatedly found discrimination and bias in health care but have consistently failed to address these problems. Disparities and bias range from treatment and diagnosis to access, funding, training, and representation of racial minorities in the health care system. Millions suffer and thousands lose their lives each year as a result of discrimination in health. Current trends toward managed care only exacerbate disparities.
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