Racism is a Public Health Issue
Since its inception in 1997, L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest publicly operated health plan in the country, has held a mission, vision and values committed to “cultural diversity and the knowledge necessary to serve members with respect and competence.” Yet, within days of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and the protests that followed, L.A. Care CEO John Baackes, issued a statement saying, “We still have work to do.”
L.A. Care serves primarily Medi-Cal beneficiaries in Los Angeles County, many from communities of color, the very people who often suffer from unequal justice. Stating “social justice is a public health issue,” Baackes directed staff to draft a Statement of Principles in response to the ongoing violence against black, indigenous and other people of color by law enforcement officers, and the divisive systemic racism and inequities experienced by these communities.
L.A. Care employees and members who are a part of the health plan’s Regional Community Advisory Committees participated in a survey about the statement, and the health plan’s Health Care Equity Committee received more than 30 pages of feedback from survey participants. The final statement included much of that feedback.
The L.A. Care Board of Governors approved that Statement of Principles on Social Justice and Systemic Racism last week.
The statement makes clear that L.A. Care and its Board of Governors do not tolerate racism or discrimination in any form, and denounces anti-Blackness and the systemic oppression of people of color in America. The statement outlines several steps the health plan is taking to address social justice issues in Los Angeles County. They include working to build and implement the following:
- Build an Equity Council that will focus on equity issues and topics related to L.A. Care employees, members and contracted provider network and vendors
- Continue advocacy work for social justice, including these efforts in our policy agenda
- Implement an Equity and Resilience Initiative that will support community-based organizations working to mitigate the impact of health care inequities among racially marginalized individuals and communities
- Continue a partnership with the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
L.A. Care knows that it cannot solve society’s racial inequities on its own, but by listening to employees, providers and members and providing its own environment free of racism or discrimination, it is a step toward a wider community that is equitable, inclusive, and just for all.