SMOKING GUN: Documents show HHS focuses on ‘anti-racism’

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra delivers remarks during a World AIDS Day event, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House photo by Cameron Smith)
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra delivers remarks during a World AIDS Day event, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in the East Room of the White House.

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

The Department of Health and Human Services under President Joe Biden has received multiple recommendations to implement “anti-racism” in policy based on the premise that America suffers from “systemic racism,” even though HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra publicly denied having any “anti-racism policies.”

“I would challenge you to show me where in our policies we call anything we’re doing ‘anti-racism’ policies,” Becerra testified in Congress back in April 2022. “We’re simply trying to make sure everyone has equal access to health care.”

Protect the Public’s Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to holding bureaucrats accountable, filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to double-check Becerra’s remarks. While HHS initially stonewalled the requests, Protect the Public’s Trust filed a lawsuit and secured documents showing that HHS has received multiple internal recommendations to adopt “anti-racist” policies and has prioritized “anti-racism” in hiring.

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The term “anti-racist” traces to Critical Race Theory, the idea that American society is systemically racist in favor of white people and against black people, regardless of civil rights laws that have barred racial discrimination for decades. Conservatives and others have criticized “anti-racism” as an attempt to reintroduce discrimination on the basis of race in the guise of pursuing “equity.”

“HHS and its component agencies are the poster children for government frittering away the trust of the American public over the last few years—think the myopic recommendations and attempts at censoring alternative viewpoints from Dr. Fauci’s [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases], the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the Surgeon General, the [Food and Drug Administration], and others,” Michael Chamberlain, director at Protect the Public’s Trust, told The Daily Signal in a statement Monday.

“It’s bad enough that Secretary Becerra and the rest of the leadership at the department refuse to play it straight with the public’s elected representatives,” he added. “The fact that they do so to mask a policy that, at its core, elevates certain groups of people over others based upon their immutable characteristics, which violates the very foundation upon which our Constitutional republic is based, makes it all the more offensive.”

On Jan. 8, 2022, three months before Becerra’s denial, Becerra himself received a briefing from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a subdivision of HHS. The presentation, which Protect the Public’s Trust revealed Wednesday, included multiple references to racism in health care.

“Systemic racism and other biases are built into healthcare delivery and, while healthcare alone will not be able to create health equity, health equity requires change in health care delivery,” the presentation states in a section titled “Pandemic lessons.” The presentation also features a section titled “Anti-racism and Equity Proposal Specifics,” but HHS redacted most of the page.

Protect the Public’s Trust received parts of a proposed Quality Payment Program for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that encouraged HHS to “create and implement an anti-racism plan.” It remains unclear whether HHS adopted the plan and implemented any related anti-racism policy, in part because HHS did not turn over the full document to provide context. The document’s exact date remains unknown, although HHS turned it over in response to a request for records from Jan. 20, 2021 to April 29, 2022.

In January 2022, when HHS considered candidates for the director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Becerra’s staff forwarded him the resume of Jeff Olivet, stating, “We anticipate that his work on anti-racism will be particularly well-received in the field, and well-aligned with the administration’s focus on equity.”

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge recommended Olivet, noting his experience working to “combat racial inequity in homelessness” and his understanding that homelessness is “rooted in systemic racism … requiring [a] comprehensive approach centered on advancing equity and racial justice.”

Olivet got the job and remains director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness as of Wednesday.

Becerra’s own public remarks give the lie to his denials about “anti-racism.”

In May, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (part of HHS) published a press release about the administration’s efforts to improve access to kidney transplants. That release quotes Becerra discussing “racial inequities” in organ transplants.

“The organ transplant industry, like every other part of society, is not immune to racial inequities,” the secretary said. “Black Americans disproportionately struggle with life-threatening kidney disease, yet they receive a smaller percentage of kidney transplants. The Biden-Harris Administration is taking concrete steps to remove racial bias when calculating wait times and rooting out profiteering and inequity in the transplant process.”

It seems HHS did not consider the possibility that the disparity could be related to factors other than “racial bias” in the delivery of services.

“Factoring race into transplant policy may be inimical to the most basic medical value: ‘Do no harm,’” Chamberlain, the director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said in a statement Wednesday. “Post-pandemic, HHS has a lot of work to do to regain the public’s trust. Certainly, obfuscating about what the department is and isn’t doing is not the way to go about it.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by The Daily Signal.]

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