Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, introduced a bill Thursday that would bar race-based discrimination in public medical care amid rising concerns over the rationing of COVID-19 therapeutics that disfavor White patients.
The Medical Equality and Discrimination Stoppage Act [MEDS] would prohibit federal, state and local governments, as well as recipients that receive federal funds, from “intentionally discriminating against or granting a preference to any person based on race in connection with the distribution of, or access to, medical treatment.”
“Denying life-saving medical care to Americans based on skin color is wrong, it is illegal, and it is un-American,” Mr. Tiffany said in a press release.
His bill came after the Minnesota, New York and Utah health departments set up rating systems that take race into account in distributing limited monoclonal antibody treatments.
Last week, Minnesota removed race as a preferential factor, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported, after America First Legal sent a letter threatening to sue over what it called “blatantly unconstitutional, immoral, and racist policies.”
“Our constitution guarantees equal protection under the law for all Americans without regard to race, color or creed,” Mr. Tiffany said. “It is long past time for the government to get out of the business of state-sanctioned racial discrimination.”
SEE ALSO: Minnesota drops racial formula to dispense COVID-19 treatment; other states still disfavoring Whites
The Minnesota health department’s scoring system awarded points to patients with risk factors such as chronic kidney disease and diabetes, and gave two points to those with “BIPOC” status, which stands for “Black, Indigenous or people of color.”
White people with the same risk factors were not given the same priority for the potentially life-saving antiviral treatment.
Utah awards two points to patients who have “Non-White race or Hispanic/Latinx ethnicity” on its risk assessment for monoclonal antibody treatments. Vaccinated people need 10 points to qualify for treatment, while the unvaccinated need 7.5 points.
The decision to include race as a risk factor was based on state research that found that non-White and Hispanic patients were 35-50% more likely to be hospitalized, the Utah Department of Health said in a Jan. 12 statement.
“Nobody automatically qualifies for treatment based on their race/ethnicity,” said the Utah Health Department.
The New York Department of Health guidelines on oral antiviral treatment issued Dec. 27 said that “Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
America First Legal has also threatened to take legal action against New York and Utah’s policies.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.