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Update from MACPAC: Responding to the Public Health Crises of COVID-19 and Racism

Although MACPAC’s next public meeting is not until September, we wanted to reach out to let you know about activities underway at MACPAC to address the two key public health crises gripping the United States: COVID-19 and systemic racism. As others have noted, these two are linked: elevated rates of infection and mortality from COVID-19 are having a disproportionate impact on Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities.

We have added a new section on our website describing how Medicaid is using different legal authorities to respond to COVID-19. In addition, a new issue brief explains Medicaid’s unique countercyclical role in responding to this current crisis as well as past economic and public health emergencies.

As an independent, nonpartisan source of information on Medicaid and CHIP, MACPAC is examining how it can best contribute to combating institutional racism and addressing racial disparities in health care and health outcomes. The need for MACPAC to engage in such work is clear given that 60 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries identify as Black, Hispanic, or another non-white race or ethnicity. We are not only looking to document racial disparities in health care, but also highlight untapped opportunities in Medicaid and CHIP to improve both access to and the quality of care that beneficiaries receive.

Resources currently on MACPAC’s website include our Access in Brief series, which sheds light on disparities in access and barriers to care for both adults and children across a range of services.

Our most recent report to Congress, released June 15, examines Medicaid’s pivotal role in maternal health, highlighting that among Medicaid beneficiaries, non-Hispanic Black women were 79 percent more likely to experience severe maternal morbidity and mortality than their white counterparts. American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Hispanic women also had increased odds of having such poor outcomes.

Additionally, our issue brief on Medicaid and the criminal justice system focuses on a population that is disproportionately comprised of Black men who are incarcerated at rates more than six times higher than whites.

In the months ahead, we will be developing new analyses to examine racial disparities in Medicaid and draw attention to particular policies that result in differences in access or experience for people of color, as well as options for change. To the extent that data are available and sample sizes permit, we will report on differences by race and ethnicity. Work is already underway to point out how data could be improved to advance understanding of disparities and the ability to take action to address them.

Follow us on Twitter at @macpacgov to stay posted over the summer as we publish additional work.