Two leading physicians in two of the most prominent U.S. cities are pushing for hospitals to begin handing out “preferential care based on race” as “reparations” for what they believe are racial inequities in America’s health care system, adding that one hospital is already taking those steps.
In a piece entitled “An Antiracist Agenda in Medicine” published in the Boston Review, Bram Wispelwey, an associate physician in the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Michelle Morse, deputy commissioner for the Center for Health Equity and Community Wellness and Chief Medical Officer at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, suggest that the COVID pandemic has exposed the disproportionate rate of poor health on minority communities, a problem they claim is largely due to the U.S. health care system failing to provide preventive medicine to people of color.
To fix that problem, the two physicians suggest that hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, implement a “proactively antiracist agenda for medicine” that includes “preferential care based on race” - even if that means inviting lawsuits on themselves.
And according to them, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has already taken steps to put such measures into place.
“Sensitive to these injustices, we have taken redress in our particular initiative to mean providing precisely what was denied for at least a decade: a preferential admission option for Black and Latinx heart failure patients to our specialty cardiology service,” the pair opine. “The Healing ARC will include a flag in our electronic medical record and admissions system suggesting that providers admit Black and Latinx heart failure patients to cardiology, rather than rely on provider discretion or patient self-advocacy to determine whether they should go to cardiology or general medicine.”
Rather than simply push for all patients to be treated the same regardless of their skin color, Wispelwey and Morse claim there are “limitations of colorblind solutions” that must be made up for my intentionally prioritizing people of color ahead of white patients to try and balance the scales.
“Building on calls for reparations, we call this a vision for medical restitution,” the duo claims.
Part of this “restitution,” according to the physicians, could include providing free care to patients of color that white patients would have to pay for themselves, and financially penalizing hospitals that don’t admit minority patients on the basis of skin color.
“Redress could take multiple forms, from cash transfers and discounted or free care to taxes on nonprofit hospitals that exclude patients of color and race-explicit protocol changes (such as preferentially admitting patients historically denied access to certain forms of medical care),” the authors write.
If that weren’t bad enough, the pair purports that the Biden administration would support this kind of race-based health care system and provide hospitals and doctors that intentionally discriminate against white patients with protection from lawsuits.
“Offering preferential care based on race or ethnicity may elicit legal challenges from our system of colorblind law,” Wispelwey and Morse write. “But given the ample current evidence that our health, judicial, and other systems already unfairly preference people who are white, we believe…that our approach is corrective and therefore mandated. We encourage other institutions to proceed confidently on behalf of equity and racial justice, with backing provided by recent White House executive orders.”