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Doctors file civil rights lawsuit against HHS secretary over ‘anti-racism’ incentives in healthcare industry

EXCLUSIVE — A pair of respected doctors, with the support of Do No Harm, filed a civil rights lawsuit against Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-Lasure challenging a rule that allegedly provides financial incentives for doctors who adopt an “anti-racism” plan.  

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Gulfport Division and obtained by Fox News Digital, argues that a new rule released by CMS and HHS which enables higher compensation for doctors who adopt an “anti-racism” plan violates the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. Several states have joined the lawsuit, including: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, and Montana.

Mississippi-based Dr. Amber Colville and Kentucky-based Dr. Ralph Alvarado, a Republican State Senator, feel racial discrimination of any kind has no place in medicine, but the plan encourages doctors to consider race as the primary factor in care over individualized medical treatment. 

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Walt Disney Television via Getty Images NEWS - 7/20/16 - Coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, which airs on all Walt Disney Television via Getty Images News programs and platforms. 

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images NEWS – 7/20/16 – Coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, which airs on all Walt Disney Television via Getty Images News programs and platforms. 
(Photo by Ida Mae Astute/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

“What they’re asking me to do is to start asking first, ‘What race are you?’ Or, you know, ‘What ethnic background?’ and drive my care based off of that first, which is contrary to the oath I took as a doctor,’ Alvarado told Fox News Digital. “I don’t want to think about my patient’s race first and foremost.” 

Alvarado said he typically asks a new patient for vital information such as their name, age, health issues and what medicines they’re one, but he’s never thought to ask about the race of a patient because it’s simply not relevant outside of a few disease states that exist in particular subpopulations. 

“In all my years of medical training, I’ve never met a doctor, nurse or any medical professional who let bias affect the quality of care. And I think the underlying message of this policy that’s been put forth by the HHS and by the Biden administration is that, you know, my fellow medical professionals are racist and we’re not. You know, we take care of our patients,” Alvarado continued. “We take an oath to take care of our patients. Once we take care of somebody and assume their care, we have a responsibility, an ethical responsibility to make sure that their outcomes are the best possible. We advocate for them.” 

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Alvarado believes that disparities in healthcare are not fundamentally related to race at all, but instead other socioeconomic factors do play a part. He said our society needs to “work on” providing equal care to all Americans 

“But it’s not due to inherent racism from providers,” he said. 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra answers questions at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during COVID-19 at Capitol Hill on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra answers questions at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss reopening schools during COVID-19 at Capitol Hill on September 30, 2021 in Washington, DC. 
(Greg Nash- Pool/Getty Images)

All doctors are concerned about enhancing reimbursement for their practices but proving federal funds to doctors who focus on race isn’t something that should be considered. Alvarado also believes that independent physicians are more likely to oppose “anti-racism” policies, but corporate medicine has taken over the industry. 

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“Since most doctors now are employed with hospitals, they’re not going to have much say on this on this issue and administrators are going to see dollar signs, and they’re going to give in,” Alvarado said. “It’s going to increase bureaucratic hassles and it’s going to result in a lot of doctors being called racist.” 

Alvarado – who spoke about his Hispanic heritage on stage at the 2016 Republican National Convention — feels the effects could be everything from physician burnout and early retirement to forcing doctors to look at patients through the lens of race. 

“I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘Oh, this person is this race or looks like this or looks like that, so therefore I can’t take care of that person or I’m going to treat them differently,’” Alvarado said. “That’s never done.

Do No Harm, a nonprofit organization, is fighting back against radical progressive ideology in the healthcare industry and supporting the lawsuit is the group’s latest initiative. 

“This is another example of a discriminatory and illegal policy advocated by the likes of Ibram X. Kendi being imposed on our health care system,” Do No Harm chairman Dr. Stanley Goldfarb said in a statement.  “These ‘anti-racism plans’ erode trust in medical professionals and will undermine the health and wellbeing of all patients.”

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Becerra previously denied the existence of racial-preference weights in the HHS, calling reports of his own physician fee schedule “misinformation.”

Testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee last week, Becerra denied the HHS has a policy offering financial incentives to doctors to implement an “anti-racism” plan.

In 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented a rule providing more funds if doctors offered an “anti-racism” plan. The plan requires a “clinic-wide review” of the doctors’ “commitment to anti-racism” based on a definition of race as “a political and social construct, not a physiological one.”

Race-based incentives were included in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System of the December 2021 HHS policy.

Fox News’ Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report. 

Brian Flood is a media reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to brian.flood@fox.com and on Twitter: @briansflood. 

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