Lawmakers, Advocates to Unveil Program to Reduce Health Care Disparities

​Health advocates will announce plans this week to try to resurrect an O’Malley-era program that reduced disparities in the incidence and treatment of disease — an effort they say should be funded by an increase in the state’s alcohol tax.

The push to bring the program back was fueled in part by the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on lower-income families and communities of color, a leading backer said.

The proposal would create Health Equity Resource Communities, five areas that would receive extra funding for programs that boost access to health treatment and reduce conditions like heart disease and diabetes that have been linked to illness and death.

It is modeled after the Health Enterprise Zones Program, which ran from 2012 until 2016 under Gov. Martin J. O’Malley (D). That initiative was given five years of funding and was allowed to expire by his successor, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).