“Barrier vs. non-barrier population”
This is what I heard as I sat in a gloomy conference room today during an agency committee meeting about who classifies as a medically underserved population and where health professional shortages exist.
The committee’s job is to build a model that the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) will use to allocate money to populations that lack medical services.
I was at these same meetings in November and realized that the deliberations lacked the human stories needed to make an accurate model. We know that certain elements have the biggest impacts on underservice such as race, ethnicity, culture, language, sexual orientation, and gender identity. So we joined forces with other organizations including the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and the National Immigration Law Center to express our concerns.
With these organizations, we submitted written comments to the committee and then I gave public testimony today about these issues. I know that by opening up this conversation, giving strong examples of the problems, and offering solutions we have made an impact in that committee’s focus. They asked us to remain a resource for their future efforts and several committee members thanked me for our participation and expressed that they have tried to elevate these concerns but that it has been difficult. These issues are not easy to raise. They make finding a clean model very difficult. But they are critical in designing a model that is effective at figuring out who really is underserved. I hope, and believe, that our work on this issue has elevated underserved voices and will make a difference in the committee’s deliberations.