Press Releases

Burgess to Health Subcommittee: What We are Here to do Today is to Listen

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Republican Leader of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, charged the subcommittee to listen and take the time to put forward meaningful legislation that will make a difference in his opening remarks. 

As Prepared for Delivery: 

Thank you, Madam Chair. As you recall, I sent a letter to you last month requesting a hearing to address the issue of racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19. Thank you for honoring that request by calling this hearing. This virus along with the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Patrick Underwood, and David Dorn have reminded us of the importance of addressing the realities of race within our health care system. 

My medical career began at Parkland. I saw firsthand the challenges of caring for primarily a Medicaid and underserved population.

Last week, Michael Horne, Chief Executive of Parkland Foundation, and Dr. Fred Cerise, Chief Executive of Parkland Hospital in Dallas, wrote an op-ed that hit home for me. Let me share some of their words with you.

“This work, our work of healing deep-seated wounds, necessitates that we deliver our health care service upon the foundations of care, compassion and community. To provide excellent clinical care. To approach that care with compassion, literally translated, ‘to suffer with.’ We have to make it personal. And to be connected to our communities. Removing real and perceived barriers, we must actively seek to build relationships across lines of difference. It is only through proximity that we can understand the challenges we must confront.”

Coming into this hearing I hope we will heed the words of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

“The discrimination that existed in the 1960s was often very overt and extreme… As a result, it appeared to be far easier then to determine who was “racist” and who was not.”

What we are here to do today is to listen. We have a chance to make a difference and change things for the better. I hope that this discussion today moves us in that direction. We should use this information to draft commonsense, bipartisan legislation that can become law.

I do want to remind everyone of the work that this subcommittee has done in this space over the past four years. We passed an authorization to increase research for sickle cell disease, which President Trump signed into law in 2018. Since then, I have spoken with patients in NIH trials and heard of the promising treatments in our pipeline.

Let’s not forget the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, the FIRST law to address maternal mortality, was signed into law and is enabling states to establish and strengthen robust maternal mortality review committees. This Congress, the Energy and Commerce Committee has approved two bills, H.R. 4995 and H.R. 4996, that would further address maternal mortality and racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes. This is not the time to take our foot off the gas.

I have read numerous articles about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities near my district in the Dallas Fort Worth area. It is possible we do not even know the full effect because some of this demographic data is not being collected. 

I particularly worry about the convergence of COVID-19 and individuals who are suffering from other chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives have historically been more prone to chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension –underlying conditions that, no matter race or ethnicity, increase the risk of contracting and dying from the virus. Additional factors, such as condensed living situations and multigenerational households, may exacerbate some of the issues in these minority communities.

There is a lot we still do not know about this virus. We are learning new details every day. This is a critical hearing because there is a lot to unpack about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities. Madam Chair, once I again express my appreciation for you working with me to call this hearing and committing to a productive COVID-19 agenda at this subcommittee.