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Press Conference with Congressional TriCaucus Members (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus): Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY); Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA); Rep. Lucille R

Press Conference with Congressional TriCaucus Members (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus): Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY); Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA); Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA); Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA); Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL); Delegate Donna Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands); And Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) - Health Care Equity

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REP. LEE: Okay. Good morning. And thank you all for being here. Some of us may have to leave for a markup, but we'll make our statements and we'll be coming and going as schedules permit.

I'm Barbara Lee. I represent the 9th Congressional District of California, also the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. And I stand here before you today as a very proud original co-sponsor of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 with my colleagues who have worked on this bill for many, many years.

Congresswoman Christensen this year will lead, not only the efforts of the Congressional Black Caucus, but the Congressional TriCaucus in terms of our health disparity elimination effort, which began, actually, three Congresses ago, but also represents our collective commitment, the TriCaucus collective commitment to ensure that health equity is an integral part of health care reform.

It represents our unwillingness to forget those who have been left out of the health care system for far too long and it represents our very thoughtful solutions to ensure that health care reform improves the health, health care, wellness and, of course, life opportunities of every single American regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, language, sexual orientation, geographic or socioeconomic background, as well as age.

It's unfortunate that the reality of our legislative thrust has been that it's been about ten years, a decade ago that the last minority health bill was enacted, but in that time in the last ten years, we have learned so much about health disparities, the causes and the trends, as well as the economic and the human impact and so much, unfortunately, of what we all know is not very positive.

Let me just give you an example. More than three in every persons of color, 76 percent, were uninsured for six months or more in 2007 and 2008, and studies confirm that bouts of un-insurance have a disastrous impact on health and wellness, especially for people who live with chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, asthma. Of course, these diseases and others require regular and routine care to manage and we also know that African American women are nearly four times more likely than white women to die during childbirth or from pregnancy complications and that the infant mortality rates for African Americans and American Indian and Alaska natives are more than two times higher than that for whites.

And so, today, we have more and more and you'll hear more of these statistics from members of the TriCaucus and we have decided that, once again, we will introduce our bill, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 because it will begin to close many of these tragic disparities.

There was a report in 2002, unequal treatment, many of those recommendations, which, again, our nation's leading health disparity elimination experts championed. Now, this was, remember, in 2002, we're now in 2009. So we're sending a very clear message that health care equity, disparities must be included in any health care reform bill that we debate and that we work on this year because, in the end, the inclusion and hopeful enactment of health care reform must leave no one behind and that is what we're here to talk about today.

So thank you again very much. I want to thank all of the members for their hard work on this bill because this has been such a long process, but I think we've come together with an excellent bill and we will be introducing it very soon.

So Congresswoman Christensen now will come forward. She is our physician, medical doctor from the Virgin Islands who has championed this with our TriCaucus for many, many years and will be the lead author this year.

Congresswoman Christensen, thank you again.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: Thank you. Thank you so much, Chairwoman Lee and thank you and all of our great chairs for your outstanding leadership and my TriCaucus health task force colleagues for your untiring efforts on behalf of health equity and thank you all for joining us today.

Clearly, we are at a very pivotal and a very exciting time, one that the TriCaucus intends to take full advantage of.

For those of us who have been calling for health disparity elimination legislation that will diversify the health workforce, focus on prevention, apply a community-centric approach to address health disparities and the tens of thousands of premature preventable deaths every year and improve the health and wellness of all Americans, for us, it's a more, even more exciting time because the reform that's about to take place in our health care system, we are about to take it to another level of transformation with the legislation that we're about to introduce and this will truly make a difference in the health and well being of millions of people in this country.

In this historic year and this historic 111th Congress, I have the honor and privilege of being the lead sponsor of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009, and the time and the opportunity to get it passed is now.

This bill which applies a very comprehensive approach to ensure health equity addresses the illnesses that caused this proportionate disease, disability and death, but it goes the needed steps further to address many of the root causes of health disparities, causes that people don't often think of as factors, yet those that create the environment that cause poor health and impedes any personal or community attempt to achieve wellness and those are the social determinance of our health and we address them in this bill.

I want to focus on two key provisions of the bill, which relate directly to points four and five of our joint TriCaucus health care reform priorities. The first are the health workforce provisions, which aim to incentivize and support underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities who pursue careers as doctors, nurses, dentists, psychiatrists, pharmacists, hospice providers, community health workers and all -- the whole spectrum of health care providers and would also strengthen the institutions that predominately serve minorities and educate, train and graduate them into health care fields.

This is not a proposal.

There's not any proposal that's out there that doesn't make it clear that we will have to greatly expand the provider work force to meet the demands of a fully insured populace, but there's also an increasing body of research, which affirms that to achieve true health equity this expansion must dramatically increase the diversity in that workforce that reflects the demographics of our country on all levels.

That research further shows that these providers will practice in the underserved communities and that the cultural and linguistic concordance will engender better patient-doctor relationships and trust and achieve better outcomes and that's a goal every American can support.

The second provision is a creation of health empowerment zones because good health either begins or ends in the community and because some of the most effective health equity efforts are those that are community-based. This bill also includes zones, health empowerment zones, which are modeled after economic empowerment zones and provide areas, be it a neighborhood, reservation, borough, county, township or city with resources and technical assistance to identify their health disparity challenges and to coordinate existing resources and expertise to develop and implement community-based solutions.

But the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 does much more. Throughout the provisions that you'll hear about, it goes beyond reducing racial and ethic health disparities, it also seeks to reduce gender, LGBT and rural health disparities. And so in many ways, the Health Equity and Accountability Act would improve the health care and health status and thus the lives of all Americans who have been on the down side of opportunity, attention and access in the current dysfunctional health care system. But it's important to also put minority health in the proper perspective. Many reports further document that improving the health of the poor and people of color will improve the quality of health care for everyone and help to bring the skyrocketing costs that everyone bears the burden of down.

For this reason, I'm proud to stand here today with my colleagues, not only to ask all Americans to support this bill, but to strongly support its inclusion in the final health care reform bill.

And now I'm pleased to present the next speaker, my classmate and my colleague and the co-chair of the CBC health -- brain trust, Congressman Danny Davis of Chicago.

REP. DAVIS: Thank you very much, and I'm pleased to be here with all of the members of the TriCaucus and I want to commend the leadership of our individual caucuses for bringing us together and having us to work so effectively.

For more than 40 years, we have seen the growth and development of community, rural, migrant and family health centers. I maintain that these have proven themselves to be the most efficient, most effective and most comprehensive approach to provide health care to large numbers of low-income people throughout America.

As a matter of fact, they are the best things that have happened to health care probably since the Indians discovered corn flakes. These centers currently service more than 18 million, mostly low- income people throughout America. They are linked and connected with secondary hospitals, with tertiary care centers and provide enormous training opportunities for individuals to work, especially in primary care.

It is our position that any health legislation passed, any health reform legislation, and certainly, in our bill, that we must see serious expansion of these centers. Not only do they provide health care, but they are economic booms to most of the low-income communities where they are located.

When we see many of the minority health professionals in the country, they got their training, they got their beginning. Some of them actually started as community health workers, as health aides, as pharmacy assistants and technicians. Now, they are full-fledged physicians, full-fledged pharmacists. Many of them have earned masters degrees in public health and we think that there's no better way of making sure that low-income minorities have opportunities for the highest level of health care than to expand the community health center program.

REP. LEE: Now, we will have Congressman Mike Honda who chairs the Asian-Pacific American Caucus who will speak about the importance of comprehensive and coordinated data collection.

Thank you very much.

REP. HONDA: Thank you, Madame Chair.

Health reform, without addressing and solving disparities, is not really reform. Insurance alone does not guarantee access, either, particularly for the limited-English-proficiency patients; which is why we need a strong public option to create expanded access to more providers for all.

The approximately 21 percent of Asian-American and Pacific Islanders without health care are more than the cold statistics. They are our parents, our children, our brothers and our sisters. Although all aspects of health reform are important to our community, it is particularly critical for us to topple language and cultural barriers to affordable, quality health care.

CAPAC, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, is a voice of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community in Congress. And I'm very proud of the long work and long hours that our task force chair that represents CAPAC, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, who represents the Territory of Guam -- but also, a new member for CAPAC, the congressman that represents Northern Marianas, Congressman Kilili Sablan. We're just very glad for them -- for him to join us today.

We want to make sure that we stand firmly with our partners in CHC, CBC, to ensure that we move in the right direction in health reform. That is why we need to strengthen the existing workforce diversity programs, create new programs and invest in community-based approaches to health care.

Reforms must be integrated into the whole of the health reform bill, and not relegated to one little -- or one title, or an afterthought. The great expenses that we see and that we have been struggling with in the past in regard to health care has come -- has been originating from those gaps that we have described. The time is now for Congress and the president to come together on this issue, and I look forward to continue my dialogue with the leadership and the president's staff on this important issue.

And let me reiterate again that the work that the TriCaucus, along with those in Indian country and the LGBT community, is critical to the entire health program and health approach to this country. Thank you.

REP. LEE: Thank you.

Congresswoman Bordallo, who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus's health task force. Thank you.

DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you, Madame Chairman. And "Hofaday" to everyone. That's the word we use for greetings in Guam.

I join my colleagues here today, and they have all stressed that this bill will do so much more than just expand data collection and bolster diversity in the health workforce.

And it will also do so much more than reduce the incidence of diseases and chronic conditions in our nation's most underserved communities. This bill will literally save lives, innocent lives, many of which are during their productive life years. It could strengthen the ongoing health-care reform efforts, because it will fix the most broken aspects of our nation's health-care system.

For example, in addition to improving health-care services and treatments at the patient level, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009, which I was -- am a original cosponsor of this bill -- also includes provisions to strengthen and expand the federal agencies and offices with health jurisdiction, including the Office of Minority Health and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the NIH, the National Institute of Health, which this bill will elevate to an institute.

These provisions are necessary, because they will bolster efforts to coordinate and strengthen accountability and evaluation of health disparity-elimination efforts, within and among our largest federal health entities. And so, by including these provisions and others from the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 in the health- care reform bill, we will be ensuring that as we work to reform our health-care system, that we successfully transform every aspect of it in a manner that champions health equity, and treats every man, woman and child with dignity and equity, regardless of their race, ethnic background, language or geography.

This is of particular importance to me because I represent a U.S. territory. And like Congresswoman Christensen and my other colleagues representing the U.S. territories, I am very pleased that this act includes provisions that will finally bring equality in health and health care to the U.S. territories.

For example, this bill includes provisions that ensure that the public health programs in the U.S. territories will finally be structured and will finally have the resources necessary to adequately and appropriately serve our most medically and financially needy residents. And this is very important because some of the nation's most devastating health disparity trends are in the territories.

For example, the U.S. Virgin Islands has the second-highest AIDS case rate in the nation. And on Guam, our health provider shortages are so severe that often residents must go off-island to get the care they need to manage their conditions.

And so the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 will accomplish what so many previous health bills have failed to do: to remember the U.S. territories and to include the thoughtful provisions that will improve the health, the health care, and thus wellness and lives, of all Americans, including those who do not live on the mainland.

That truly is what health equity is all about, and is precisely why I'm so honored to be here with my colleagues from the TriCaucus, standing in unison and in support of this legislation that we feel strongly should be included in the health-reform bill.

This bill also includes comprehensive measures to ensure cultural and linguistic competence in health care. And this is what my colleague Congressman Velazquez will address. And so I introduce her.

REP. VELAZQUEZ: Good morning, everyone. I'm Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And I am pleased to be here today with my TriCaucus colleagues. I'm proud to join them, as I'm a regional cosponsor of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009.

As my colleagues before me mentioned, our nation is engaging in a debate on reforming our broken health-care system. As that debate has progressed, the conversation has lacked any concern or commitment to addressing the culture of disparities that exist in our system. Believe me. A comprehensive health-care-reform bill without the aspects that we're discussing here today will be set for failure.

One of, if not the key, component to our health-care system are the health-care professionals who make up the workforce. Our efforts must include strong recruitment, training, hiring and retention of health professionals from all racial and ethnics -- ethnic backgrounds across all health and health-care-related positions, including researchers and health-care executives.

Creating and expanding a diverse workforce on all levels must be a priority, and these efforts must begin in our elementary schools. By beginning early and keeping focus throughout our education system, from kindergarten to high school and beyond, we can help increase the currently underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities.

And it is important that our health-care professionals be familiar with the unique needs and traditions of our communities. For example, within the Latino community, the needs of the Puerto Ricans in Brooklyn, New York, might not be the same as the needs for the Chicanos in L.A.

We need to create the avenues that will help increase those opportunities for our community, and that is why we strongly support the creation of new funding streams, as well as our commitment to fully funding the existing Title VII federal health professions programs. These programs increase the diversity of the primary care, mental health, and dental and oral health provider workforce.

One of the Title VII fundamental goals is the education of primary care providers, with an emphasis on the recruitment of under- represented minorities and disadvantaged populations who can deliver quality health care in our medically underserved communities.

Health reform must also include provisions to increase funding of the Title VIII health professions programs to reverse critical nursing shortages and to expand and bolster diversity of the nation's nursing workforce.

We also support increased support for residency training for advanced practice nurses in order to bolster the nation's primary care workforce. The nursing shortage is one of the major shortcomings of our health care system and we must take aggressive action on that issue.

Another key component of health care reform is improved prevention and health care services, which my colleague, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, chair of the CAC Health and Environment Task Force will discuss further and I just want to applaud her leadership and the fine work and all the efforts that she has put into this health care reform legislation.

REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Thank you, Congresswoman Velasquez. And thank you all very much for joining us today.

As my colleagues and friends have stated, the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 is a critically important bill that takes the issue of health disparity beyond just coverage and cost.

To address this most critical public health challenge in our nation, our bill applies a comprehensive and sound public health approach to address the elimination of racial, ethnic and cultural health disparities. The Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009 includes thoughtful provisions to provide border health grants, improve rural health care services, reduce HIV/AIDS and cancer among racial and ethic minorities and promote positive health behaviors in women and children so that they may live longer, healthier lives.

America's health is at a critical juncture with persistent disparities between ethnic and racial groups contributing to our country's diminished health status, the onset of preventable disease and premature death.

The future health of America as a whole will be influenced substantially by our success in improving the health of all minority groups. A key component to achieving that goal is to have a public health approach that intricates prevention and wellness across all health care services.

So I join my colleagues in support of the preventive measures in this bill from expanding access to prevention education, to ensuring equity and the quality of preventive care.

We are united in our determination to ensure that wherever applicable the elimination of health disparities is integrated into health reform legislation.

It is an honor to be a member of the TriCaucus and I want to commend all those who have worked so hard on this bill over the past years, and I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Health Equity and Accountability Act of 2009.

Thank you very much.

REP. LEE: Thank you very much. We'll open for questions in just a -- I believe Congresswoman Watson would like to make a statement and former, actually, chair when she was in the State Senate of the Health and Human Services Committee.

REP. WATSON: Thank you so much, Barbara.

I just quickly wanted to say of the nearly 48 million uninsured, about eight million are in California and six million of those are children.

The climate is right in this period of time to do health care reform, and we know in California because we were the first state in the union that is a majority of minorities that the underserved are people of color for the most part.

So we are all working hard and this bill will help us reach the goal of being sure the disparities are done away with, there's equality and responsibility as we come up with a program that will serve the underserved. Accessibility is one of the problems. We just had one of our major hospitals in South Central close down and that was the Martin Luther King Hospital. Now, people have to go a dangerously 18 minutes more away from that hospital for emergency care.

These are some of the things we tend to set up as objectives to reach the goal of comprehensive health care for all Americans.

Thank you.

REP. LEE: Doctor Brian Smedley, who is the Vice President and Director of Health Policy Institute with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is not here, but we do have his statement so we would hope that you'd pick up a copy of the recommendations in the unequal treatment report on health disparities, which is, I think, included in the statement.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard has a brief remark, a few brief comments she'd like to make.

REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Yeah. I wanted to make another point about why prevention is so important because we all know that prevention saves lives and it improves health outcomes, leaving our families and our communities stronger and more resilient. And it also has the potential to save our nation precious health care dollars. For example, the Trust for America's Health concluded that an investment of $10 per person per year in proven, community-based disease prevention programs could yield a net savings of more than $2.8 billion, billion dollars annually in health care costs in one to two years. That figure grows to $16 billion annually within five years.

So, clearly, in terms of the outcomes of having a healthier nation, we need to have prevention as a part of any health care bill and with regards to the effort to save money, prevention is key in that aspect as well.

So it is clear that prevention has not failed us, but that we, in turn, have failed prevention and it must be a part of this health, any health care bill.

REP. LEE: Okay. Thank you very much. We'll open for questions and I'd like to thank our staff also who had worked so diligently on, not only this press conference, but on the bill and all of the research and all of the pulling together -- the initiative that we've been working on. If it hadn't been for them, I don't think we'd be here today.

So thank you all very much.

Q (Off mike.)

REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: The TriCaucus health chairs and TriCaucus chairs have written and begun discussions with the Senate on this and we've also been very much involved in what the House is putting together and the House is already talking about including some of the provisions into our House health care reform package.

Q (Off mike.)

REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: Just broadly, maybe, you know, it's just in the process of being written. I haven't even looked at what they've put out yet today, but I would imagine community health centers would be a part of the diversity. Everyone knows that based on Massachusetts and other experiences that the lack of health care providers has proven to be a barrier to really -- having everyone have access to health care despite insurance and so as they plan how we will increase our health care workforce, I can pretty much say they've made a commitment to increasing diversity in that workforce as well and there are probably some other provisions, but we're still in discussions on them.

REP. LEE: Yeah. And I think what's important to know is this bill actually has been introduced. This is the third time now.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: It's actually the fourth time. It is a TriCaucus effort and the last original sponsor was Hilda Solis. Before that, it was Mike Honda, before that it was Elijah Cummings. So it just rotates through the caucus and the initial two introductions we did it with the House and Senate together, so we're also hoping to have a Senate sponsor.

Q Is the TriCaucus united to oppose the bill if it does not include at least some of the major aspects -- (inaudible) --

REP. LEE: Well, let me just say --

REP. ROYBAL-ALLARD: I don't think we're at that point yet, and any discussions that we have, there seems to be a real recognition and acceptance of the fact that the elimination of health disparities is important to reaching the goal of a good, you know, health care plan.

So we're very hopeful. We haven't had any indication that the key provisions that we are asking for are not even being considered.

REP. HONDA: Just a quick comment on the question. I don't think that the principles of our health care plan has been completely shared with the writing team, but I'll tell you one thing. If there is no health, public health option in the health care debate, then there will be a lot of resistance. So in the whole debate, the public health option has to be there and on top of the disparities issues, we mentioned language and also training of health professionals and research at CDC without having any consideration in research, instruction and the health profession and language, I think that would be missing a great part of the needs that our communities face, for instance, there was an operation that was going to be had (inaudible) from my district and the person happened to speak -- (inaudible) -- and a doctor was checking to see if he was following these procedures and there was no communication between the two, in fact, a lot of miscommunication and the wrong leg that was supposed to be amputated was amputated, so the man ended up missing two legs and these are just reported incidents, there's over 7,000 reported. How many more are there that have not been reported?

So this was critical.

Q The Office of Minority Health, what would you like to see in terms of that particular office other than just more money?

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: There are several agencies in Health and Human Services that don't have an office of minority health, CMS, FDA. So we want to see it expanded. Its always been that they have been allowed a budget up to five percent of the budget of the agency. We'd like to see a line item budget and more coordination, having more of a say in everything, every policy coming out of Health and Human Services than they do right now.

REP. HONDA: The phrase, more money, seems to back people off on issues and we're here to tell you that without addressing the gaps in disparities in health is going to cost you more money and to anticipate that, we have to plan well, invest well, so that the return on our investment is saving lives, the health of our country and, ultimately, having money to be able to be expended in other areas such as research.

Q (Off mike.) Insurance doesn't ensure access to care; do you think that the public health option is the best way to ensure access? Is there anything else if there's no public health option that can be done -- (inaudible) --

REP. LEE: Well, most of us, I think, the entire TriCaucus supports public health option because we're faced with 47 million uninsured and we recognize the choice is central to any insurance reform effort, however, there are so many who don't have that choice now and it's our duty and really our moral responsibility to provide that option within a public health context very similar to Medicare.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: We're not satisfied with the care that Medicaid beneficiaries gets, so we need to see some improvements in the Medicaid program with at least better reimbursement for providers so that people who will have access to quality providers.

Providers don't even go into poor neighborhoods because they can't get maintain their practices or keep their hospital doors open.

So access is also not just getting into a doctor's or a provider's office, it's having the cultural competency. It's also having access to all kinds of health care. Dental is not one that's included thus far in any of the proposals that we see and we know how important good dental care is, so we would like to see access to dental care.

So it's expanding access in ways other than just ensuring everyone.

REP. HONDA: The comment on -- (inaudible) -- seems to indicate that the private industry or the other health care providers are willing to do something that should be done and carve out a portion of their time and their efforts for those who need it, (inaudible) never worked because it doesn't help the bottom line for them. I haven't been in a public office with the county. We're responsible for everybody and we have a debate about county hospitals versus other hospitals, they always tell us that, oh, don't build too many beds, we have enough beds out here and we'll take care of people in emergency care and it never happens that way.

And so, you know, based on the experiences at least for myself -- (inaudible) -- is a nice word, but it doesn't play out in the future and it doesn't indicate that they're willing to go to the extent that this bill and this proposal has.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: And on the issue -- you asked about the Office of Minority Health, but I just want to focus for a minute on the Office of the National Center for Minority and Health Disparity Research that we'd like to elevate to an institute. The funding level for that center, which we were able ten years, almost 11 years ago now to elevate to Center is one of the lowest budgets in NIH and in order to be able to do the kind of research that's needed on communities of color to ensure that we're included in clinical trials, to support the minority serving institutions so that they can strengthen their infrastructure for research, that center needs to have more money, but it also needs to be elevated to the level of an institute so that it also has more trans-authority over research happening in any of the other areas that would impact communities of color.

REP. LEE: We've been joined by Congressman Xavier Becerra who is a member of the Hispanic Caucus and also a member of our Democratic Caucus leadership team and serving as vice chair. Thank you very much.

Let me just reference one point on this and I hope, again, that you pick up Dr. Smedley's report because he stresses that health equity through health reform, what must address the social determinance of health, including those that go beyond the health insurance status that currently have, of course, a detrimental impact on racial and ethnic minorities.

So be sure you pick up his report because that is such a big piece of what we want to see incorporated in whatever institute or national office that we elevate to the status that Congresswoman Christensen was mentioning.

Q (Off mike.) As far as crafting the language inside that to ensure that the funding -- the way that you guys distributed the funding is equitable all across the board, so it doesn't suffer the same fate as public schools and there's a lot of over crowdedness inside a lot of minority communities.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: Well, funding is going to probably be our biggest challenge, but we intend to work with state legislators, mayors, all elected officials on all levels so that once we do what we do up here that they will work with us to ensure that the communities that need the services have them.

There's also some independent pieces of legislation. I believe there's one that's going to be introduced that will expand on health centers and I might just add that Senator Specter and Congressman Cummings have introduced legislation to elevate the national center to an institute as well.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: And there's going to be grants made available also for prevention demonstration projects. So there's different ways that this will be funded.

REP. LEE: And several of us actually serve on the appropriations subcommittee, Congressmen Honda, Roybal-Allard and myself and that subcommittee actually will have a key role in funding many of the health initiatives that come out of whatever health care reform bill that we finalize.

Okay. Well, if there are no additional questions, let me just thank all of you again for coming. We'll be available for a few minutes if you'd like to ask any of us any questions. But just to know that the TriCaucus is very clear on what our bottom lines are and our bottom lines are included in this bill. We've communicated very clearly with the White House and with the president and we're convinced that they, too, understand that health care disparities must be part of this debate in our leadership and we look forward to working with --

Q Are you going to be participating -- (inaudible) --

REP. LEE: We have today, our staff will be participating today and it's my understanding that members of Congress will be called together at another meeting on health care disparities. But I'm very delighted that the White House is holding this meeting today and several members of our staff will be participating.

Q (Off mike.)

REP. LEE: We don't know. But we're just delighted that they're doing it.

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: We're also meeting with Nancy-Ann DeParle later this week as a TriCaucus to discuss the last national report on health disparities and the response and I suspect that this meeting is being called, in part, as a response to the national report, but also as a follow up to the initial summit.

Q I'm sorry, this bill will be introduced, has been introduced?

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: It will be introduced. We have the final print. We're just going through it to make sure that it does exactly what we want it to do.

Q Do you have a vague guess?

DEL. CHRISTENSEN: I expect by the end of this week.

REP. LEE: End of this week.

REP. HONDA: You will note that the members who are here speaking to health disparities and the gaps that we identify are from the communities of color and if you think about all of the policies that have been authored in the past, we were not part of that. So the reason why this is so important is that we take our own experiences and our understanding of our own communities and translate those experiences into statutes so that the policy becomes more on point, more focused and if you will, a little bit more elegant and addressing the gaps that we see on a daily basis.

So any reform that comes out with our material will be incomplete and so it's our intent that, our experiences be placed into this whole policy process.

REP. LEE: Thank you very much.


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