Healthcare experts want to use COVID-19 to address medical disparity due to race

It didn’t take the spread of coronavirus to realize that the American healthcare system had large problems with disparity of care and treatment based on socioeconomic status and race, but the pandemic certainly highlighted and exacerbated the issues already at play. Now, healthcare leaders are hoping that they can use the crisis to address these problems at their core and develop longstanding solutions to the inequalities that have long existed in the system. 

Nationally, the percentage of Black, Hispanic, and Native American cases and deaths of COVID-19 exceed their share of the population, according to the most recent data. Black Americans get infected with and die from the virus at rates more than 1.5 times their share of the population.

“Obviously this is systemic, so for us to say at this point in time that we’re just learning about this [disparity] would be somewhat disingenuous,” said Rhonda Mims, the regional vice president of community affairs at Centene Corporation at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference on Thursday. 

“In order for us to tackle something like this we have to face the truth and realize that we got here through generations of unhealthy eating, stress, climate change, and lack of housing. There are a host of things that drove us to not having great health outcomes but now is the time for us to face up to it and tackle it. We’re not going to bury our heads,” she continued. 

Centene, a healthcare insurer that focuses on managed care for uninsured and low-income individuals, announced a new initiative in May: a Health Disparities Task Force made up of medical leaders across the country who will meet regularly with a focus on studying the causes of healthcare disparities among the most vulnerable populations and recommend solutions to help them. 

“We at Stanford medicine often talk about how zip codes are the greatest predictor of our long term health, more than genetic health,” said Priya Singh, chief strategy officer at Stanford Medicine. Her team has been focusing on precision health instead of precision medicine, she said. Her team tries to treat populations from preventive and predictive lenses instead of just treating ailments in primary care clinics. A permanent increase in telemedicine will also help underserved communities, she said. 

There also has to be more outreach to minority communities in drug trials, said Dr. Susanne Schaffert, president of Novartis Onc

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From Airbnb to Peloton, these pandemic-era strategy pivots may stick

“Pivot” is a word well understood in corporate-speak as a change of course for a business, but the idea has taken on a whole new meaning in 2020.

That’s certainly what leaders who spoke at Fortune’s MPW Summit conference on Thursday have found in their own endeavors. Be it pivoting overnight to build online “Experiences” at Airbnb or shifting an entire election conference to go virtual, leaders have had to turn on a dime to meet the new challenges of this environment. But for some, those pivots have actually sparked ideas for how to change things moving forward—even when we’re allowed to congregate in larger numbers again.

More flexibility

For Catherine Powell, the global head of hosting for travel and rental site Airbnb, COVID-19’s impact on travel meant she had to scrap plans during her first two months on the job and quickly switch to offering so-called Experiences, which include things like cooking classes and hiking tours, online instead of in person. While some in-person events are coming back, she believes the company’s new online Experiences “have shown you can actually connect incredibly personally and emotionally” in a virtual setting, while also acknowledging “we’re going to come back to a hybrid world where people are going to need to connect and want that social interaction,” she said at a virtual conference session Thursday. That’s key for Airbnb’s hosts, who are “all about human connection,” says Powell.

But she’s also noticed an uptick in people doing long-term stays in Airbnb homes as they work from home. In the future, “I think people will feel less tethered,” she said. “I think certainly from our point of view, with homes, those who can continue working from home in different places and travel the world will do so.”  

The virtues of virtual

Meanwhile, Stephanie Cutter, the founding partner of Precision Strategies and program executive and producer of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, had a big task ahead of her when the convention had to go remote. “It was ripe for some reinventing, let’s just say that,” Cutter said. Apart from the fact the convention had to switch to a virtual format, Cutter says she used the opportunity as a chance to get more “creative” and make some strategic changes, including shorter segments, more diversity of content (not just candidates speaking into the camera), elements of entertainment, and various formats.

But even in the future when conven

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Congress and Trump to restart stimulus negotiations as $300 unemployment benefit expires

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Thursday that the White House and Democratic leaders will resume stimulus negotiations.

Earlier talks stalled at the end of August after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to come down from her party’s offer of $2.2 trillion in economic aid, and the White House wouldn’t budge from its offer of $1.3 trillion. Pelosi confirmed that talks would restart, though as of now no firm timeline has been announced by either side.

Democratic and Republican leaders haven’t publicly said if they’ve changed their offers, however, President Donald Trump suggested an opennesses last week to a $1.5 trillion compromise package—$200 billion more than his last offer—put forward by a bipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives.

There are items that both parties still support including in the next package, such as a second round of stimulus checks, an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, and more aid for small businesses and hospitals. They’re in disagreement on items like a steep increase in federal aid to state and local governments, which Democrats support, and COVID-19 lawsuit immunity for businesses, which Republicans support.

Why suddenly an increased sense of urgency? For starters, the economic recovery is showing signs of slowing and economists are calling for more economic aid. Look no further than the more than 870,000 additional new unemployment claims filed last week as employers continue to lay off workers en masse.

And the $300 enhanced weekly unemployment benefits, paid on top of state benefits, that President Donald Trump issued through a memorandum in August are set to expire before the end of the month as funding runs out. Already, more than a dozen states have announced they’ll stop paying it. If the enhanced unemployment benefits are to be extended it will likely take an act of Congress.

But getting a stimulus package passed won’t be easy, especially in light of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Senate Republicans announcing plans to vote on Trump’s soon-to-be-announced Supreme Court nominee, which have heightened partisan tension on the Hill.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune: Investors are pulling money out of U.S. equities and betting on Europe. Is it time to follow their lead? Feds’ “stablecoin” letter may boost crypto ambitions of Facebook, Square

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