Volume 12

Striving for the Mountaintop – The Elimination of Health Disparities in a Time of Retrenchment (1968 – 2018)

by Gwendolyn Roberts Majette

Health disparities in the United States are real. People of color are the adverse beneficia- ries of these facts—lower life expectancy, higher rates of morbidity and mortality, and poorer health outcomes in general. This Article analyzes the laws and policies that improve and create barriers to improving people of color’s health since the death of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. The Article builds upon my earlier scholarship and con- siders the effectiveness of the “PPACA Framework to Eliminate Health Disparities” since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was enacted in 2010.

The Article also explores the impact of constitutional challenges to the PPACA, President Trump’s executive orders, and other regulatory changes on the continued reduc- tion of health care disparities. It analyzes legal retrenchment from the PPACA through Professor Derrick Bell’s critical race theory scholarship, in particular his theory of interest convergence. Following the works of Dr. King and Prof. Bell, it proposes a “Mountaintop Solution” to eliminate health disparities for people of color in the United States.

The Mountaintop Solution recognizes the importance of health and human rights norms to protect the rights of marginalized groups. Normatively, the Article argues that the United States should act justly and comply with its treaty obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the first United States National Action Plan for Responsible Business Conduct. The Article also argues that businesses in the U.S. health care industry should adhere to the United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights in their response to the promulgation of laws designed to undermine the effectiveness of the PPACA. Specifically, the health care industry should engage in health promoting activities that create conditions that will ensure that people of color have the highest level of physical and mental health.

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