The Senator Also Discussed the Concerning Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Deaths
WASHINGTON – U.S Senator Maggie Hassan discussed the need to strengthen the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing today. The hearing, titled Lessons Learned to Prepare for the Next Pandemic, comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country.
To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.
“Our nation can better prepare for future pandemics by reversing cuts to public health and preparedness funding, re-engaging with international partners, and ensuring that key federal positions are occupied by qualified staff,” Senator Hassan said. “However, we are in the middle of a pandemic now. COVID-19 continues to spread quickly through the United States even as many European nations have gotten their outbreaks under control.”
Senator Hassan asked Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, about what the administration can do to help states strengthen their response to the pandemic.
Dr. Khaldun responded, “Often we don’t know when those testing supplies are going to come and when they come they are less than what we expected to get or they’re not even useful. So we need really a clear strategy from the federal government on supplies when we will get them so we can actually plan on a state and local level for how we’ll get those supplies out.”
Senator Hassan also discussed with Dr. Khaldun what Congress can do to help improve the health outcomes for communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by this public health crisis. During her questioning, the Senator cited a letter Dr. Khaldun sent to clinicians across Michigan that pointed out that Black residents in the state comprise 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths statewide, despite making up only 14 percent of the state’s population.
“We really have to focus upstream and talk about those social determinants of health,” Dr. Khaldun responded. “Housing policy is health policy. We have to make sure communities of color, who are disproportionately living in poverty, have access to healthy and safe housing.”
Dr. Khaldun also discussed the importance of expanding access to health insurance and Medicaid to cover COVID-19 related testing, treatment, and an eventual vaccine. Senator Hassan has continued to work to expand access to health care throughout the pandemic, and pushed insurance companies to cover testing and treatment for individuals with COVID-19 and those who are presumptive positive.