Public Policy Priorities
At Equitas Health, our first priority is ensuring adequate access to, coverage of, and stable funding for all of the healthcare services that our patients need.
Providing Access to Healthcare for All
At Equitas Health, we prioritize advocating for policies that are rooted in the pursuit of health justice. We hold true the understanding that health justice policies are policies that promote equitable access to health care services and coverage, funding for services and programs that support our patients and clients, and civil rights and legal protections for all people. Our mission is to be a gateway to good health for all—but we cannot do that without the essential government programs and public policies that help us provide affordable services to our patients and clients.
Our primary public policy priorities include the following:
Advancing Racial Justice
Commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization
Equitas Health acknowledges racism as a public health crisis in America. As a steward of public health, it is incumbent upon us to create an affirming health care home for all. We recognize that Black, Hispanic, Indigenous or native, and other people of color experience institutional racism in the provision of health care and supportive services, and we aim to eliminate bias and discrimination in our models of care.
Equitas Health is committed to addressing the ways in which we have contributed to or benefited from White Supremacy and seek to remedy these injustices in our continuum of care, our hiring practices and internal policies, in our pursuit of public policy, and the way in which we engage with the communities we serve.
To advance racial justice as a society, we must remain engaged in the continued work necessary to create safe and affirming spaces for all.
Advocating for Justice in Public Safety
Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tamir Rice. Henry Green. Casey Goodson. Andre Hill. The reality of policing in America is that state-sanctioned violence is deeply rooted in American history – we continue to bear witness to the over-policing and underinvestment in Black, Hispanic, Indigenous or native, and other communities of color, resulting in fear, intimidation, and murder without accountability. These violent acts too often go unpunished, leaving calls for justice unmet. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all who seek accountability and reform for injustice at the hands of the state. We work to promote the adoption of transparent civilian review boards, the appropriate allocation of funds between police departments and community based services and programs, and the end of qualified immunity.
We are committed to fighting violence and discrimination based on race in all forms.
Expanded COVID-19 Relief
Support for testing, vaccine distribution, and relief for vulnerable populations
We will continue to advocate for public policies that facilitate development of infrastructures and funding to support COVID-19 testing, vaccine production and distribution, telehealth, direct financial assistance to individuals and families, rental assistance including relief for missed or late payments, an extension on the eviction moratorium, and supplemental funding for community health centers and direct service providers.
Addressing Social Determinants of Health
Supporting public policies that promote the social determinants of health (SDOH)
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), social determinants are the conditions in the places where people live, work, and learn that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes. SDOH can be grouped into five categories; economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context.
We are committed to addressing SDOH in clinical spaces and in our policy and advocacy work. We will support legislation to advance access to quality health care, education, community development, social connectivity, and economic stability.
We will advocate for state and federal measures to rein in the rising cost of prescription drugs. As the nation continues to navigate challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, many who rely on specialty medications to manage chronic conditions find themselves facing a difficult decision – paying the bills or paying for necessary and lifesaving medications. We are committed to supporting policies that promote affordability and ensure no one has to go without care.
We also support legislation to end co-pay accumulator policies implemented by insurance companies and employers. Copay accumulator policies are programs that prohibit all copay payments made using a manufacturer-issued copay savings program from counting toward a patient’s annual deductible. We are actively working alongside community partners to reintroduce legislation during the 134th General Assembly to prohibit this practice and promote affordability practices for our patients and clients.
Ryan White Program
The Ryan White program provides a comprehensive system of care, including primary medical care and vital support services for people living with HIV (PLWH) who are either uninsured or underinsured. Central to the program is providing an important source of continuing access to medication that can help PLWH become and remain virally suppressed, and live close to normal lifespans.
As the largest Ryan White grantee in the state of Ohio, Equitas Health is committed to protecting the Ryan White program including support for services for our patients who are HIV positive.
340B Drug Pricing Program
The 340B Drug Discount Program allows Equitas Health to offer a broad range of services to our patients, as well as certain prescription drugs at discounted prices.
At Equitas Health, we work to not only protect the existence and integrity of this program, but also to ensure that there are nondiscriminatory 340B reimbursement practices for our patients by all payors, including Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial insurers. This helps guarantee that our patients can afford the prescriptions they need.
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted to ensure access to affordable healthcare coverage for all Americans. Central to the ACA’s success is the fact that it has expanded health coverage to more than 20 million Americans, including almost 1.5 million Ohioans. Aside from working to ensure access to affordable care, the ACA aims to address health equity by prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community in certain health programs and activities.
Equitas Health supports the expansion of the transformative policies embodied in the ACA, particularly those aimed at ensuring nondiscrimination in the healthcare setting and ensuring access to and coverage of essential healthcare services.
We implore the Biden administration and the 117th Congress to pursue policies that build upon the framework of the ACA to and work toward achieving universal coverage.
Many of our patients depend on crucial safety net resources, like Medicaid, to access affordable healthcare services. Medicaid is the avenue through which a number of our clients access these services—particularly those who were afforded coverage through Ohio’s Medicaid expansion program.
Ohio’s Medicaid expansion afforded coverage to Ohioans age 19 through 64 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level ($17,236 for a single individual in 2019). It also guaranteed coverage for people living with HIV without first requiring an AIDS diagnosis.
Through the implementation of Medicaid expansion in 26 states, including Ohio, thousands of people living with HIV gained insurance coverage that they otherwise would not have had. This includes many of our own patients at Equitas Health.
At Equitas Health, protecting Medicaid as an entitlement and ensuring the retention of the Medicaid expansion program in Ohio are top priorities. We strongly oppose block granting Medicaid and the implementation of personal responsibility measures, including work and education requirements, that negatively impact our patients.
We support the Biden administration’s actions in late January to require the Department of Health and Human Services to thoroughly review and provide changes to Trump administration directives on Medicaid, including a review of the burdensome and discriminatory actions to institute work requirements.
Mental Health and Recovery
Stop stigma. Increase service options.
Mental health and substance use play an integral role in a person’s overall health. This is even more imperative for members of the LGBTQ+ community. 63 million LGBTQ+ adults have identified and often-unmet mental health and recovery needs. Healthcare disparity including only 7.4% of treatment programs around the nation providing competent evidenced based LGBTQ+ care contribute to the lower health outcomes.
At Equitas Health, we know that ensuring access to high quality, appropriate and culturally competent healthcare is a necessity for our patients and for members of the communities we serve. We work actively to support mental health parity, increased access to recovery treatment options, syringe access programs, telehealth and support services.
In order to achieve this parity and increased access, Equitas Health supports an increased enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. This piece of federal legislation requires health insurers and group health plans to provide the same level of coverage benefits for mental health and/or recovery services that they do for medical and surgical care, if the coverage in fact provides mental health coverage. We are also planning the expansion of mental health and recovery service offerings to our patients both live and through telehealth options.
Addressing unmet needs
According to the Ohio Department of Health, dental care has remained the top unmet health need in this state for nearly 20 years—particularly among children and low-income adults. In an attempt to help address this issue, Equitas Health began offering dental services in two of our medical centers (Dayton and in the King Lincoln neighborhood of Columbus).
Ensuring continued access to affordable dental services is crucial to the overall health of our patients. We support increased access to and coverage of dental services.
Community Health Centers
Maintaining a crucial part of America's healthcare system
The Community Health Center program is a federal program that provides primary healthcare services to medically underserved populations. Because of this program, Equitas Health is able to support its community-based programs, through which we aim to reach underserved populations where they live to provide them with necessary and accessible healthcare. An integral part of this work is prioritizing attention to providing such services to underserved people, particularly those living in communities of color, who live in our existing service areas.
Community Health Centers provide access to basic health care services to communities most in need. As a federally qualified community health center look-alike (FQHC look-alike), Equitas Health is able to provide services and support to historically underserved communities whether they are uninsured or under-insured, and regardless of their ability to pay.
Although we do not receive federal funds through the Community Health Center program, we advocate for funding for this program so that our counterparts that receive federal funding can continue to be providers of choice in communities across the country. As we have observed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, community health centers have been instrumental in continuing service delivery – allowing our hospital systems to care for those most severely affected by COVID-19.
Working to End the HIV Epidemic through Prevention and Care
A multi-faceted approach
Fighting HIV has been at the center of Equitas Health’s mission since our organization’s inception, and we are committed to ending the HIV epidemic in the US.
To achieve this goal, we must prevent transmission of HIV, provide treatment and care for those affected by HIV, and ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) have access to the necessary support services to maintain their treatment and to guarantee a stable and healthy life.
Equitas Health is committed to our role in implementing the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative to reduce the transmission of HIV in the United States by 75% by 2025 and by 90% by 2030. We are determined to do our part to make this goal a reality by providing prevention, treatment, and care services and programs, and by working with policymakers to ensure that these services and programs are appropriately funded and that they are accessible to all who need them.
Pre- and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP)
Using pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP, respectively) are proven prevention tools that help prevent transmission of HIV.
At Equitas Health, we know that one of the most crucial pieces of the prevention puzzle is to ensure that there is access to, coverage of, and reimbursement for medications like Truvada and Descovy for PrEP, and new generic forms of the medication that have recently hit the market. We work with policymakers at the state and federal level to ensure that these types of medications remain accessible to our patients—no matter their insurance coverage status. We have launched a Tele-PrEP effort to ensure that anyone who wants PrEP, no matter where they are located, can get it. This is particularly important for vulnerable populations who cannot get to an Equitas Health medical center for treatment.
Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)
The science is clear: undetectable = untransmittable. People living with HIV who are on effective treatment and whose viral loads are undetectable cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners. By taking their medication as prescribed to keep healthy, people living with HIV are a key part of the solution to ending the HIV epidemic. As a proud U=U community partner, Equitas Health has launched a statewide campaign to raise awareness about U=U, and to ensure that the groundbreaking science behind the campaign is accessible to as many people as possible.
Increasing access is the number one goal of the Ending the HIV Epidemic plan and one tool that we have in Ohio to increase access is Prevention Assistance Program Interventions (PAPI), a program that helps cover the medical costs associated with taking PrEP.
The U=U campaign is crucial for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it helps shift the conversation to science, not stigma. Since our inception, Equitas Health has been committed to ending stigma against HIV and ending the HIV epidemic. Through our U=U campaign, we will not only educate our patients and communities about the importance of staying healthy, but also about the importance of becoming an advocate to help spread U=U’s message as much as possible. Additionally, it is our goal to work with municipalities to introduce resolutions recognizing the U=U campaign.
As a result of the new Ending the HIV Epidemic resources, Equitas Health has launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic Task Force in Columbus, it’s an elite team of health navigators, tasked with one goal: eliminating all barriers to care for people living with HIVand ending the spread of this virus in Ohio through any means necessary. Launching more programs like this throughout Ohio will be crucial in reaching the ending the epidemic goals.
Harm Reduction Services
One factor that continues to drive the HIV epidemic in the US is drug use—including both the sharing of injection equipment and the risky sexual behavior often associated with drug use.
In order to maintain decades-long gains in preventing HIV among people who inject drugs, it is imperative to ensure access to preventive services to the people who need it most. These services include syringe service programs, mental health and substance use disorder services, testing and prevention services for people at risk of HIV and viral hepatitis, and access to treatment and care services for PLWHA.
Equitas Health also supports policies that reduce the use of shared syringes and that ensure their safe disposal. We understand that providing linkage-to-care activities through syringe services programs are a critical part of HIV prevention, and we work actively to ensure funding for and access to this type of care. We continue to advocate for funding for the Safe Point program and for the increase in comprehensive harm reduction programs and services across the state.
Treatment and Support Services for People Living with HIV/AIDS
Promoting evidence-based and evidence-informed care
We are committed to supporting and providing access to evidence-based and evidence-informed care and treatment interventions that produce optimal HIV care continuum outcomes and can be easily adapted to the ever-changing healthcare environment.
We work with policymakers at the state, local, and federal level to maintain funding for the supportive services and programs that Equitas Health offers to PLWHA.
Guaranteeing Equality and Dignity for the LGBTQ+ Community
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to face discrimination in various facets of their lives, including in spaces that extend far beyond the walls of a doctor’s office. We work actively to support laws and policies that extend legal protections to members of the LGBTQ+ community and work against the passage and implementation of those that do not.
As a healthcare organization, Equitas Health aims to ensure equitable access to nondiscriminatory healthcare services for all. We call on the Biden administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to overturn the changes made to Section 1557 of the Health Care Rights Law under the Trump administration in order to restore non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Recently, the Biden administration issued an Executive Order extending application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended protections from discrimination to LGBTQ+ people under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We support the Biden administration’s Executive Order and call upon Congress to codify these protections by passing the Equality Act.
Policies like the Equality Act, which passed in the 116th Congress extend legal protections to members of the LGBTQ+ community in all aspects of their lives, including housing, employment, and public accommodations. Equitas Health also supports bills like the Ohio Fairness Act, which would extend Ohio’s existing nondiscrimination law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, and efforts to modernize Ohio’s hate crime law to include crimes against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Equitas Health also supports legislation to ban “LGBTQ+ panic” as a legal defense strategy.
We are committed to standing up for members of the LGBTQ+ community and fighting harmful legislation or administrative rule changes. We will not tolerate discrimination in any form, and will continue our advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ individuals.
HIV Criminalization Laws
Equitas Health has a longstanding commitment to ending the discrimination and stigma against people living with HIV that are codified in both state and federal law.
As a member of the Ohio Health Modernization Movement, Equitas Health is working with a coalition of other community partners dedicated to repealing or reforming Ohio’s regressive and discriminatory HIV criminalization statutes. There are six statutes within the Ohio Revised Code that criminalize people with HIV—often enhancing penalties for people simply because they are HIV positive—and they heavily rely on stigma, not science. These statutes include not just the felonious assault statute, which broadly criminalizes HIV, but also multiple statutes that specifically target and enhance penalties for those engaged in sex work and behaviors that do not pose any risk of transmitting HIV. These laws are enforced disproportionately in communities that face over-policing, like communities of color and in low-income areas, and they do nothing to decrease the risk of HIV transmission. The existing statutes discourage people from knowing their status so as not to be at risk for legal liability, and further stigma around HIV
Equitas Health is committed to helping lead the charge to modernize Ohio’s laws so that they no longer criminalize HIV and instead reflect evidence-based practices aimed at decreasing HIV transmissions and encouraging safe and healthy sexual relationships.
In 2021, we will work alongside members of the Ohio Health Modernization Movement and the Ohio General Assembly to introduce legislation to modernize these statutes and ensure that Ohio’s Revised Code recognizes and reflects science over stigma.
Members of the transgender community face discrimination, stigma, and systemic inequality in various facets of their lives. Our commitment to fighting for equality for all members of the LGBTQ+ community includes working to ensure that Ohioans who are transgender are afforded access to the same legal protections, public accommodations, and services as everyone else.
This includes protecting current legal protections afforded to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in federal law, such as those protections found in Title IX and those enforced by the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice. We are also committed to ensuring equity in access to healthcare for patients who are transgender, including working to abolish the Ohio Medicaid and state employee benefit package policies that explicitly exclude transition-related healthcare and transgender health coverage. Equitas Health is also committed to helping clients navigate the newly overturned prohibition on altering gender markers on birth certificates.
We also stand in solidarity with the movement to protect Black trans women and will work diligently to uplift their experiences, listen and respond to their needs, and advocate for policies that award them the safety and dignity to which they are entitled.
Eliminating Violence against Members of the LGBTQ+ Community
The mission of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) is to work to eliminate violence perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identification, domestic violence, and sexual assault through prevention, education, advocacy, violence documentation, and survivor services, both within and on behalf of members of the LGBTQ+ community. BRAVO is a program of Equitas Health, and we share this same mission. We will continue to work to ensure implementation of policies at the federal and state levels that protect members of the LGBTQ+ community – particularly transgender people of color – from higher than typical levels of violence.
We support the state and federal legislation to eliminate violence against vulnerable communities including the following:
- Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as passed by the House of Representatives in the 116th
- Reintroduction of R. 35 – Emmitt Till Antilynching Act to formally recognize the history and ban the practice of lynching in the United States.
- Increased funding for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) program.
Providing Housing for PLWHA and LGBTQ+ Youth
Housing for PLWHA
Having access to stable housing is not only associated with better health outcomes for PLWH, it also means that PLWH are more likely to be virally suppressed, which means that they cannot transmit the virus to other people. Additionally, people who are homeless or who do not have stable housing face HIV infection rates that are a staggering five to ten times higher than those who do have access to stable housing.
Equitas Health is committed to providing access to the essential care and services that PLWHA need to live stable and healthy lives, which inherently includes providing access to housing. We work to maintain or expand funding for federal housing programs for PLWHA, like the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA). Additionally, we support the development and implementation of laws and policies that support adequate access to culturally competent and nondiscriminatory services provided at shelters frequented by PLWHA. We are also committed to promoting and advancing policies to address the severity of the housing crisis across the country. We will advocate for policies to end discriminatory eviction practices and ensure all people can find and retain appropriate, affirming, and affordable shelter or housing.
 Suzanne M. Dolwick Grieb, et al., Housing Stability, Residential Transience, and HIV Testing Among Low-Income Urban African Americans, AIDS Education and Prevention: Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 430-444, 431 available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4116750/.
Housing for LGBTQ+ Youth
LGBTQ+ youth confront homelessness at disproportionately high levels as compared to other youth. Facing alienation and rejection from family at home or at school, LGBTQ+ youth often run away and, facing further societal discrimination like LGBTQ+ adults, have particular difficulty finding stable housing, including in homeless shelters.
Equitas Health is committed to addressing the disproportionately high rates of homelessness experienced by LGBTQ+ youth in Ohio. We will work to expand existing state, local, and federal resources that support programs that not only aim to improve family relationships, but also reduce rates of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, Equitas Health supports the development and implementation of laws and policies that facilitate access to culturally competent and nondiscriminatory services provided at shelters frequented by LGBTQ+ youth.
Minimizing Negative Interactions with the Criminal Justice System
Combatting Entrance into the Criminal Justice System
To minimize negative interactions with the criminal justice system, Equitas Health supports the development and implementation of local, state, and federal law and policies that prohibit discriminatory policing practices and unfair law enforcement that disproportionately target members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those who are people of color, low-income, and/or who are transgender and gender nonconforming.
Some of this work overlaps with Equitas Health’s efforts to curb heightened criminalization of LGBTQ+ people that result from Ohio’s numerous HIV criminalization statutes. Additionally, Equitas Health is committed to ensuring that current programs aimed at providing support services to members of the LGBTQ+ community upon re-entry are maintained, including those aimed at providing access to affordable healthcare and housing.
LGBTQ+ Youth and Criminal Justice
LGBTQ+ youth often face specific barriers that increase their likelihood of entering the criminal justice system. Working to minimize some of the most common forces that steer LGBTQ+ youth into the criminal justice system, like societal and familial rejection and discriminatory and harsh disciplinary practices in their schools, is crucial.
Equitas Health supports the development and implementation of local, state, and federal law and policy that prohibits such discriminatory practices in schools and seeks to provide welcoming and supportive spaces, programs, and services for those LGBTQ+ youth who face family rejection at home.