President Biden has appointed the first Black woman to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)— longtime Democratic health expert Chiquita Brooks-LaSure— at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has deeply impacted communities of color and deepened racial disparities in health care coverage.
If confirmed, Brooks-LaSure— who has more than 20 years of health policy expertise and has served in several senior roles at CMS— would be in the second-most powerful position within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Brooks-LaSure’s appointment comes in the wake of five million Black and Hispanic Americans losing their employer-sponsored health plans in 2020. That has led many to seek public payer programs like Medicaid or Medicare or alternative options for insurance coverage.
In the first half of 2020, the average life expectancy in the United States dropped by a full year. Broken down by race, life expectancy decreased 1.9 years for Hispanic Americans while Black Americans suffered the sharpest decline of 2.7 years.
Since the start of the pandemic, Black and Hispanic populations have died from COVID-19 at nearly twice the rate of non-Hispanic white people.
Systemic inequalities in health care, general delays in seeking or receiving medical care and a rise in drug overdose deaths have led to overall health disparities.
FGH’s Aryana Khalid, former CMS Chief of Staff, and Adam Goldstein, former CMS Special Assistant— who worked with Brooks-LaSure during the Obama Administration — recall her passion to improve the health and well-being of all beneficiaries, a deep knowledge of CMS programs, and the leadership acumen to get things done.