On December 10th,the United States Commission on Civil Rights voted 5-1 to send this letter (pdf) to President Barack Obama and the Senate leadership about racially discriminatory provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. The Commissioners writes:

The impetus behind such provisions appears to be the belief that racial health car disparities are cause by a shortage of medical professionals of particular races and by health workers’ lack of “cultural competency.” But as Dr. Amitabh Chandra of Harvard University testified at a recent briefing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on health care disparities, this view is “grounded in hope more than science.”

No matter how well-intentioned, utilizing racial preferences with hope of alleviating health care disparities is inadvisable both as a matter of policy and as a matter of law.

Ensuring that all Americans, regardless of race, have access to quality health care requires both creativity and hard-nosed attention to data. It also requires staying within the requirements of the Constitution. The current race-based provisions of the Senate Health Care bill display none of these qualities. We urge Congress to re-examine those provisions and focus on proven methods of improving health care outcomes for minority patients and attracting the best quality health professionals to underserved communities.