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To address racial equity in health, the CT legislature is expected to take up these key goals

Steve Johnson, former president of the Windham Community MemorialHospital United Employees, AFT Local 5099 union, Supporting the union workers as they negate for pay raises and the elimination of mandatory overtime during a 48 hour unfair labor practice strike outside of Windham Community Memorial Hospital from 7am Thursday to 7am Saturday in Willimantic, Connecticut September 23, 2022.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Steve Johnson, former president of Windham Community Memorial Hospital United Employees, shows his support for union workers as they fight for pay raises and the elimination of mandatory overtime during a 48-hour unfair labor practice strike outside Windham Community Memorial Hospital on Sept. 23, 2022.

State legislators are expected to address medication affordability and nursing shortages this coming session, according to the Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health.

The 28-member group was established by Gov. Ned Lamont after a 2021 bill that declared racism a public health crisis in Connecticut.

Members said the Connecticut General Assembly most likely will focus on long-term funding for community health workers. “They are not covered by Medicaid yet, although groups hope that [they] will be eventually,” said Muna Abbas, a data analyst for the commission. “Right now, they are grant-funded for the most part. There are efforts to look at ways to implement sustainable reimbursement for community health workers.”

Medical debt will be another hot issue.

“We also believe that there will be efforts to include mandatory reporting on the demographics of patients being sued for unpaid charges,” Abbas said.

Members called attention to expanding HUSKY Health coverage to undocumented immigrants and also expanding coverage for obesity and violence intervention.

“We believe there are going to be proposals to tackle health care affordability, for example, prescription drugs, to tackle the high prices that many consumers are facing,” Abbas said.

At a meeting on Oct. 20, the commission set 35 metrics across the statutorily defined focus areas, comprising health and the social drivers of health — housing, environment, education, economics and criminal justice.

“We’re following up with state agencies and other identified sources of data,” said Pareesa Charmchi Goodwin, executive director of the Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health. “Were on track to have a data report by the end of [2022], which will include the majority of the metrics and an update to the General Assembly.”

A website has been launched, and it is connected to the state General Assembly website found under the "commissions" tab.

“We’ll be building up content over time, but to start, we’ll have information on our reports to the General Assembly, disparity data snapshots and meeting information,” Goodwin said. “It’s important that communities are not only aware of our work and what we’re doing, but also inform our work. Our commission also has an executive branch-facing charge, providing practice and policy recommendations to eliminate structural racism in state hiring, contracting and procurement and operations.”

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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