Law symposium examines racial bias in health care 50 years after enactment of the Civil Rights Act

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated that all races have the right to equal access to health care. Fifty years later, real concerns exist that access to health care remains separate and unequal, and racial bias may be a root cause, according to Case Western Reserve University Law Professor Ruqaiijah Yearby.

She has organized the law-medicine symposium “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired: Putting an End to Separate and Unequal Health Care in the United States 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act of 1964″ to examine whether health-care providers in the United States are satisfying the federal government’s requirement of equal access.

“Decades of empirical research studies, including a groundbreaking Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, ‘Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare,’ suggest that racial bias in health care is one of the root causes of racial disparities in health between African-Americans and Caucasians,” Yearby said. “However, efforts to eradicate racial disparities in health have failed to acknowledge or address racial bias.”

Over two days, Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28, the symposium will focus on health care and racial disparities. The program will feature leading legal, medical and public health experts. They will break into working groups to develop policy solutions. Yearby said the goal is to develop an action plan, aiming to put an end to racial bias in health care.

A full agenda is available at the CWRU law school’s events website, which also has the connection to a live webcast.

The symposium features a keynote at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 27. The speaker is David Barton Smith, author of Health Care Divided: Race and Healing a Nation (The University of Michigan Press 1999). Smith’s book explored racial segregation and discrimination in health care in the United States. He is expected to discuss current evidence of health care inequity in patterns of use and outcomes. Smith is a research professor at the Center for Health Equality and the Department of Health Management and Policy, Drexel University School of Public Health.

The Thursday lunch speakers are Ray Miller, a retired state legislator and now publisher of The Columbus African American News Journal, and Ohio State Rep. Barbara R. Sears (R-Toledo).

A Thursday afternoon panel will address the question: What is the legacy of Title VI and what are the holes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act that perpetuate health disparities? Scheduled panel participants include David Barton Smith, the symposium keynote speaker; Celeste Davis, regional manager, the U.S. Department of the Office of Civil Rights, Region V; Professor Dayna Matthew, Colorado Law, and Professor Sidney Watson, Saint Louis University School of Law.

Among the scheduled participants of a panel Friday morning discussing health disparity and racial bias is Gregory L. Hall, chair of Ohio Commission on Minority Health.