White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday unveiled a new plan that he says would address disparities in access to health care along the lines of race, gender or where one lives.
The South Bend, Ind., mayor’s plan would make health equity a national priority and would redistribute funding to areas in need, institute new training for health care workers and more.
“I’m determined to usher in a new era for health in America. One that recognizes that our policies must target systemic disparities in our health system,” said Buttigieg. “One that understands what happens in our lives outside the clinic is equally as important to our health and well-being than what happens in a hospital or doctor’s office. And one that makes achieving health equity — where everyone has a fair opportunity to be as healthy as they can be — a national imperative.”
The plan calls for launching a National Health Equity Strategy Task Force within the first 100 days of Buttigieg’s inauguration to help develop a “National Health Equity Strategy” and detail steps to make health equity “part of all federal agencies’ missions.”
Buttigieg would also designate areas with “significant health disparities” as “Health Equity Zones,” which would then be able to pull from a budget of $5 billion over 10 years to help rectify their “most pressing” health needs.
The plan goes on to call for health equity standards in federal health insurance programs, a requirement for federal health programs to collect and monitor data from institutions like hospitals and nursing homes and institute training for health care professionals to address racism and other biases when treating patients.
Health care has emerged as chief focal point of the 2020 primary field. Buttigieg, considered one of the moderates in the race, has proposed a “Medicare for all who want it” plan that would expand the Affordable Care Act and offer a public option.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a vocal progressive, has touted his “Medicare for All” program that would institute a single-payer system that would eliminate private insurance.
Several 2020 candidates have put a premium on explaining how they’d address a litany of societal inequities as an increasingly activist party base demands action to rectify racial, gender and wealth disparities.
Buttigieg’s plan comes as the Indiana Democrat struggles to gin up support among voters of color. Surveys show him polling in the low single digits among African Americans, a crucial Democratic voting demographic, and only slightly higher among Hispanics.