Casey’s Community Health Worker Access Act: A Vital Step towards Bridging Health Disparities

face maskImage via Pixabay

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a move to improve health outcomes and address disparities, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) this week introduced the Community Health Worker Access Act on Thursday. The proposed legislation aims to enhance Medicare coverage for community health workers’ services, thereby providing personalized support for illness prevention and recovery. Additionally, it encourages states to include services provided by community health workers under their Medicaid programs.

“Community health workers play a critical role in tackling some of Pennsylvania’s most important health challenges and helping people overcome barriers to getting the care they need,” said Senator Casey.

For years, community health workers have served as vital links between healthcare providers and communities, particularly those grappling with health disparities. Their roles often include health education, referrals, care coordination, navigation, and patient advocacy. Through a community-centric approach, these workers help address social determinants of health, including food insecurity and access to healthcare.

Denise Smith, Inaugural Executive Director of National Association for Community Health Workers, highlighted the importance of this legislation, stating, “The CHW Access Act will ensure that Medicare eligible persons have access to the health and social services of a local and trusted Community Health Worker without a copay.”

As the U.S. continues to grapple with healthcare disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of community health workers has become increasingly critical. These workers often serve as trusted figures within their communities, capable of bridging gaps between healthcare providers and patients who might otherwise be disconnected due to language barriers, cultural differences, or socioeconomic factors.

READ:  Impilo's White Paper Highlights Gains in Rural Healthcare Access via Remote Monitoring

Katie Bollbach, Executive Director, Partners In Health United States, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the role of community health workers in building stronger public health systems and healthier communities. She urged Congress to advance this bill without delay.

The Community Health Worker Access Act comes on the heels of Senator Casey’s successful spearheading of the Building a Sustainable Workforce for Healthy Communities Act in December 2022. This legislation reauthorized a competitive grant program to support state and local governments, tribal organizations, and community-based organizations in expanding community health worker programs.

The new bill, if passed, would provide Medicare reimbursement for community health workers’ services to prevent illness, reduce physical or mental disability, and restore individuals to their best possible functional level. It would also address social needs through education and referrals to healthcare and community-based organizations. Additionally, the proposed legislation would create an optional Medicaid benefit, incentivized by an enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), to cover preventive services and services to address social needs furnished by community health workers.

More than 200 community health worker networks and public health organizations, including the National Association for Community Health Workers, Partners in Health, the Penn Center for Community Health Workers, Families USA, the American Public Health Association, Visión y Compromiso, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, the Primary Care Collaborative, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the Rural Community Health Worker Network, have expressed their support for the Community Health Worker Access Act.

This proposed legislation could be a game-changer for communities across America, particularly those that have been historically underserved by traditional healthcare systems. By enhancing coverage for community health workers’ services, the bill would not only empower these vital healthcare professionals but also ensure that more Americans can access the personalized, community-centric care they need.

READ:  Lawmakers Introduce Unity Through Service Act to Boost National Service

The introduction of the Community Health Worker Access Act highlights the growing recognition of the importance of community health workers in the U.S. healthcare system. As the nation continues to grapple with health disparities, this legislation offers a promising pathway toward more equitable health outcomes for all Americans.

For the latest news on everything happening in Chester County and the surrounding area, be sure to follow MyChesCo on Google News and Microsoft Start.