HEN Urges President Biden and CBC to Take Action Against Big Insurance

July 6, 2021

President Joe Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Congressional Black Caucus

The Honorable Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Chair

2303 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear President Biden and Congresswoman Beatty,

Thank you, Mr. President, Congresswoman Beatty, the Biden administration and all Members of the Congressional Black

Caucus for your leadership on issues of importance to Black Americans, specifically regarding access to quality health

care. Driven by our dedication to secure quality health care for Black Americans, the Healthcare Equality Network (HEN)

is committed to tackling health disparities head-on. That is why we are writing to you about the latest action that will

produce devastating consequences for the communities that we serve.

Recently, UnitedHealthcare announced a blatantly unjust new emergency department policy, and we are encouraging

Congress to take action against it.

As the largest insurance company in the United States, UnitedHealthcare serves millions of Americans, but earlier this

month, the company announced it would no longer cover patients’ non-emergency visits to emergency departments

and retroactively bill them for services rendered. UnitedHealthcare’s actions will create an environment whereby

patients act as their own doctors’ and diagnose their injuries. Under this policy, if a patient guesses wrong, they will

either suffer from severe health complications, which could lead to fatal outcomes, or will be hit with exorbitant medical

bills that are passed down from this insurer.

This policy will not only break the bank for many patients, but it will create obstacles and ultimately scare patients

from seeking treatment in emergency situations, which could be fatal.

If UnitedHealthcare’s new policy is enacted, more Americans will be harmed and there will be potentially deadly

outcomes from incidents that could have otherwise been treated. To make matters even worse, this policy is coming off

of a year of patients already having newfound uncertainties and fears when seeking care. As Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr.,

HEN member, aptly said in a recent op-ed, “With a year of one public health crisis after another, UnitedHealthcare is

creating an extra barrier to entry for patients accessing care.” For example, we saw that many more Americans,

especially in low-income areas, had heart attacks outside of hospitals because they were afraid they would catch the

virus if they sought help.

This policy will also disproportionally affect our most defenseless populations. The Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention found that the avoidance of urgent or emergency care was most prevalent among marginalized

communities, including Black and Hispanic Americans. This policy will only exacerbate an issue that we are already

desperately trying to fight.

Last week, we applauded President Biden’s thoughtful announcement focused on an interim final rule that would put a

stop to policies like these; unfortunately, we all know insurance companies too often find loopholes in legislation that

creates a system that is not always in the best interest of patients. We want to work with the Biden administration and

 

Congress to make certain any gaps or ambiguities in proposed legislation are met with strong, unwavering language that

will obstruct insurance companies from implementing policies like this one.

We cannot let UnitedHealthcare or any others in the industry get away with such policies at the expense of America’s

most vulnerable patients. Big Insurance has too often created a system that is not reflective of President Biden’s

comments and the CBC’s vision to ensure that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing

they have access to affordable, quality health care. We look forward to working with the Biden administration and

Congress, especially the CBC, to ensure accountability and to continue advocating for those that they serve.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Sincerely,

 

The Healthcare Equality Network

Black Women’s Health Imperative

The Frederick Douglass Foundation

 

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux

 

CC: Congressional Black Caucus

Rep. Steven Horsford

Rep. Brenda Lawrence

Rep. Hank Johnson

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson

Rep. Joe Neguse

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Rep. Maxine Waters

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop

Rep. James E. Clyburn

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Robby L. Rush

Rep. Bobby Scott

Rep. Bernie Thompson

Rep. Danny K. Davis

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. David Scott

Rep. G. K. Butterfield

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, II

Rep. Al Green

Rep. Gwen Moore

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke

Rep. André Carson

Rep. Karen Bass

Rep. Terri Sewell

Rep. Donald M. Payne

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Rep. Marc Veasey

Rep. Robin Kelly

Sen. Cory Booker

Rep. Alma Adams

 

Del. Stacey Plaskett

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman

Rep. Dwight Evans

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester

Rep. Anothony Brown

Rep. Val Butler Demings

Rep. Al Lawson

Rep. A. Donald McEachin

Rep. Colin Allred

Rep. Antonio Delgado

Rep. Jahana Hayes

Rep. Lucy McBath

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Lauren Underwood

Rep. Kweisi Mfume

Rep. Nikema Williams

Rep. Cori Bush

Rep. Jamall Bowman

Rep. Ritchie Torres

Rep. Marilyn Strickland

Sen. Raphael Warnock

Rep. Mondaire Jones

Rep. Troy Carter

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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