'Nonpartisan' Health Policy Group Pushes Dems' Equity Agenda

National Academy for State Health Policy says states should mandate anti-racism training, promote race-based hiring

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September 26, 2022

An influential health care policy group that claims it is nonpartisan is pushing state governments to "advance health equity"—a controversial Democratic policy agenda that includes mandatory anti-racism training and race-based hiring initiatives.

The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), which says it develops state "health policy innovations and solutions" on everything from health care coverage to prescription drug prices, promoted the left-wing agenda at its annual conference this month, which included panels on "investing in equity" by increasing the number of minority employees working in health care. The nonprofit hosted a speech from Democratic governor Jay Inslee (Wash.), who last year signed a bill into law that eliminated certain crimes from background checks for health workers because of their "inequitable impact" on minority applicants.

The conference comes just months after the group released a brief titled "State Strategies to Increase Diversity in the Behavioral Health Workforce," which encouraged states to "target increasing engagement of [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] across the workforce" through policies such as required "structural racism" training.

This push for health equity—a catchphrase among left-wing policymakers that can include the rationing of medical resources based on race—has gained traction within the Biden administration and blue state health departments in recent years, raising questions about the group's claim to be a nonpartisan arbiter of health care policy. Oregon's health regulatory board, for example, requires "cultural competency" training for licensed health providers. Massachusetts, meanwhile, spent $250,000 last year to launch a program to recruit minorities to its behavioral health workforce.

The end goal of such "health equity" initiatives is to help health providers "confront the systems and policies that have resulted in the generational injustice that has given rise to health inequities," according to the Biden administration's Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

A spokeswoman for NASHP said its equity memo is accepted by policymakers from both political parties.

"Reducing health disparities—and addressing their social and economic causes—is at the heart of many of these efforts, with both blue and red states taking this on," she told the Washington Free Beacon.

In light of NASHP's health-equity push, however, Republican officials such as Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares say the group cannot be trusted by policymakers as a nonpartisan source of information and analysis. 

"It's disturbing to see the National Academy for State Health Policy, which claims to be nonpartisan, embrace a partisan liberal agenda," Miyares told the Free Beacon. "States should closely examine NASHP's rhetoric and activities and not embrace more division and divisiveness, particularly around public health."

This is not the first time NASHP has boosted Democratic policies—the group played a crucial role in helping Democrats extend Obamacare subsidies through the Inflation Reduction Act that passed in August. The subsidies were previously set to expire this year, which would have led to a significant spike in premiums for Obamacare enrollees across the country. 

The group met with several Democratic lawmakers in May who feared this spike could jeopardize their party's midterm campaigns. A week later, a group of 26 Democrats sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) that cited NASHP's research on the necessity of this extension, the Washington Examiner reported.

NASHP boasts deep ties to Democratic Party infrastructure, according to a Free Beacon investigation. Trish Riley, who led the group for much of the past four decades as president and a member of the board of directors, worked for former Democratic Maine governor John Baldacci and is now a chairwoman of a Maine Democratic Party committee. She donated more than $50,000 to Democratic campaigns since 1992, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

Several other NASHP employees worked for Democratic campaigns, offices, and leftwing organizations, such as the Center for American Progress. The group is funded by Arnold Ventures, a billionaire-backed dark money group that pushes for climate change regulations and gun control.