Green New Deal for Health embeds health, labor and climate justice in systems of care, authorizing $130 billion to support community health centers; reviving New Deal-era program to boost climate mitigation efforts while preserving affordable, accessible care 

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Washington (April 20, 2023) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security and chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, today joined Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Summer Lee (PA-12), and Maxwell Frost (FL-10) in introducing the Green New Deal for Health, legislation that will enable the U.S. health care system to respond to climate change by improving sustainability and supporting patients, providers and communities.  

Today, an estimated 100 million Americans lack access to primary care. Ninety percent of Americans live in counties that have been hit with a climate disaster in the last decade, 40 percent live in counties that faced a climate disaster in 2021 alone, and more than 600 hospitals face the risk of closure across the country. Inequities in health care access among communities at the frontlines of our nation’s dual climate and public health crises have worsened in recent years, primarily impacting fenceline communities, rural communities, and Black, Brown, and immigrant communities. At the same time, the health care sector currently accounts for 8.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — compounding these crises and undermining health outcomes and our nation’s climate goals. 

“The American health care system is broken–from the exorbitant medical bills and outlandish insurance premiums, to maxed out emergency rooms and shuttering hospitals. With climate disasters on the rise, the health and safety of frontline environmental justice communities is more precarious than ever,” said Senator Markey. “We urgently need to invest in a more sustainable system, one that is resilient to the impacts of climate change, supports its workers, and doesn’t rely on fossil fuels. We can’t have a health care system that makes us sicker while health care providers work to make us well.”

“Across the world, hundreds of millions of people are already feeling the effects of climate change and the health consequences that often follow. From increased cases of asthma due to air pollution to disruptions at care facilities after extreme weather events, it’s clear we need to take steps now to protect public health,” said Representative Khanna. “I’m incredibly proud to join Senator Markey in introducing the Green New Deal for Health, a sweeping bill that reimagines what our health care system can look like when we prioritize our people and our planet.”

The Green New Deal for Health boldly reimagines a health care system that is prepared and empowered to protect the health and well-being of our workers, our communities, and our planet: 

  • To foster health care access, the Green New Deal for Health would invest $130 billion over five years in community health centers through the Community Health Center Fund.
  • To prioritize climate resiliency and mitigation in our nation’s health care sector, the Green New Deal for Health would revive the landmark New Deal-era Hill-Burton program by authorizing $100 billion in federal grants to be awarded to public and nonprofit medical facilities seeking to improve their climate resilience and disaster mitigation efforts. This measure would ensure people have uninterrupted access to care, including in the wake of climate disasters and extreme weather events, while guaranteeing workers are paid a prevailing wage and facilities are equipped to meet their obligation to serve neighboring communities.
  • The Green New Deal for Health would further require hospitals that receive Medicare payments to notify the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) at least 180 days prior to a full hospital closure or the discontinuation of its services to ensure frontline communities are not stranded in health deserts and left without adequate care facilities. 
  • The legislation directs HHS to establish a task force to develop policies and procedures for the mandatory public disclosure of emissions and climate risk of FDA-approved drugs, devices, and biologics in an effort to establish a transparent, resilient, and green medical supply chain. 
    The Green New Deal for Health invests in the backbone of our health care system—the workers who make high-quality health care possible—by directing federal dollars toward climate and health education, building a robust community health workforce, prioritizing grants to facilities that collectively bargain with their workers, and providing hazard pay to the workers who show up to care for us after a crisis.   

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representatives Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Greg Casar (TX-35), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) are cosponsors.

The Green New Deal for Health is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, American College of Nurse-Midwives, Boston Medical Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate and Community Project, Committee of Interns and Residents—SEIU Healthcare, Earthjustice, Family Health Center of Worcester, Green New Deal Network, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Health Care Without Harm, International Transformational Resilience Coalition, Moms Clean Air Force, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Massachusetts Nurses Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Partnership for Women & Families, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Nurses United, People’s Action, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, Transhealth, Tufts Center for Black Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Zero Hour.

Today, Senator Markey also joined with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) to reintroduce the Green New Deal Resolution, a comprehensive framework for taking on the intersecting economic, social, racial, health and climate crises facing the nation with a 10-year mobilization of the economy.

Senator Markey has led on several major pieces of legislation to address the intersecting climate and health care crises, introducing the Protecting Moms and Babies against Climate Change Act with Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-04), the Preventing Heat Illness and Deaths Act with Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13), the Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act with Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and the Climate Change Health Promotion and Protection Act with Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08). In December 2022, Senator Markey wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requesting HHS modernize current Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations that require certain health care facilities to adhere to outdated electrical standards requiring the use of fossil-fueled-based generators, often powered by diesel fuel, as the emergency power source for their buildings. In March, CMS heeded the call by issuing a new waiver to allow U.S. health care facilities to transition to safer, cheaper, and more reliable clean energy infrastructure in the form of renewable-powered microgrids or independent electric grids.

Senator Markey has led calls to urge the delay and reconsideration of hospital closures across Massachusetts. In December 2022, he led his colleagues Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), and Bill Keating (MA-09), members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, in a letter to Secretary Becerra to express concern over closures, service reductions, mergers, and for-profit acquisitions of hospitals across the United States. 

“There is no one simple solution to the climate or healthcare crisis, solutions must be crafted to reflect how these crises play out in our communities. They are often compounding; the same communities impacted by pollution and rising temperatures also face barriers to accessing affordable, high-quality healthcare, and their local hospitals are understaffed and overworked- making it even harder for our nurses and healthcare professionals to respond to and treat the mounting health impacts of the climate crisis. We must act boldly to address these challenges and improve the lives of workers and families across the country. Senator Markey’s Green New Deal for Health does just that—it is a critical investment that addresses the nexus of healthcare and climate change and meets communities where they are with solutions that invest in our workers, environmental justice, and equitable, accessible healthcare,” said Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers.

“The Green New Deal is the first bill of its kind to tackle the question of ‘what does community and healthcare system-level preparation for climate change look like?’ From adaptive emphasis on decarbonization in hospitals, to supporting climate-ready medical facilities, and investments in community health centers the Green New Deal for Health not only focuses on educating, training and building a robust community health workforce ready to meet the climate crisis, but bolsters and expands climate resilience by helping prepare communities often hardest hit by climate disasters,” said Katie Huffling, DNP, RN, CNM, FAAN, Executive Director of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. 

“Climate change is enabling extreme weather events such as intense heat waves and larger wildfires, and these extremes often have serious implications for human health. This timely legislation will help protect patients and empower health care workers by building just, equitable, climate-aware health care systems in which people—particularly those in marginalized, low-income communities—will be able to thrive in spite of our changing climate,” said Dr. Kristina Dahl, Principal Climate Scientist of the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“It can't be underemphasized that the nature and scale of the response to the climate crisis today will determine the health of communities for generations to come,” said Batul Hassan, Policy Manager of the Climate and Community Project. “From investments in decarbonizing the US healthcare system to increasing access to care and ensuring workplace safety, Senator Markey's Green New Deal for Health takes the multi-level approach needed to make the US health system more healthy, just, and climate-prepared."

“As Congress deals with broader questions about what a full and equitable clean energy transition entails, we need to ensure the conversation includes a focus on the value of human health,” said Raul Garcia, Vice President of Policy and Legislation at Earthjustice. “It is an honor to stand with Senator Markey and support the creation of a healthcare system that serves those most at risk from the health impacts of climate change and that is both resilient and mindful of its own emissions reductions.” 

“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening wildfires, heat waves, flooding and other disasters, we've seen communities all across the United States bearing the brunt of climate change impacts on health. Low-income communities, communities of color, the young, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions all face distinct challenges and so do the health workers who serve them,” said Ella Mendonsa, Health Equity Manager at the Environment, Equity, and Justice Center of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This historic bill coordinating key agencies and offices directs much-needed resources to building more resilient, healthy, and autonomous communities through direct funding for health centers, mental health support, and heat resiliency programming while expanding the workforce, providing well-paying jobs, and supporting climate-focused education for those health workers who are, and have been, on the frontlines of our health and climate crisis.”

“As a safety-net trauma center in a coastal city, which serves the area’s most vulnerable patient population, going green and building for campus resiliency is critical to Boston Medical Center (BMC) delivering on its mission. In order to care for patients and maintain emergency access to critical care services during a natural disaster, BMC has proactively made changes to increase resiliency of critical care hospital infrastructure. BMC applauds Senator Markey for his leadership and vision in introducing the “Green New Deal for Health” and wholeheartedly supports the bill’s proposed all-hands-on-deck approach from the federal government to bolster the health sector’s role in mitigating the climate crisis,”’ said Bob Biggio, Senior Vice President of Facilities and Support Services.

“Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC), operating seven sites in the home state of Senator Markey, wholeheartedly endorses the Green New Deal for Health. GLFHC recognizes the urgent action we all must take examining our carbon footprint and making major adjustments, while simultaneously becoming resilient and assisting our communities in resiliency in the face of climate change. The funding, representation, and action plans of this bill are essential for securing the health and wellbeing of our patients and fellow citizens, particularly in the marginalized communities we serve,” said Dr. Guy Fsh, CEO and President of the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center.

“Senator Markey’s Green New Deal for Health addresses an issue that we have always known to be true: climate change uniquely impacts the health and well-being of pregnant and postpartum people, particularly pregnant and postpartum people of color,” said Sinsi Hernández Cancio, Vice President for Health Justice of National Partnership for Women & Families. “We applaud Senator Markey for introducing an inclusive bill that recognizes health care and the climate crisis are deeply connected and that seeks to transform our health care system to serve those most directly impacted by climate change.”

“The Green New Deal for Health is urgently needed to prepare our nation's physical and mental health systems for the climate emergency,” said Bob Doppelt, Coordinator of the International Transformational Resilience Coalition. “We sincerely thank Senator Ed Markey for his leadership in putting together this extremely important legislation. Among other important actions, it will begin to expand the way our nation prevents and heals mental health problems by funding and supporting communities that use a public health approach to help all adults, adolescents, and young children strengthen their capacity for mental wellness and resilience for climate stresses and disasters.”

“We are grateful to Senator Markey for his leadership on one of the most critical issues of our time,” said Michael Curry, President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. “By addressing jobs, justice, and climate, the Green New Deal will be a major step forward for the vulnerable residents who are most impacted by these issues, many of whom are health center patients. This comprehensive bill and proposed grant funding will go far in ensuring that health equity is front and center in policies and programs from curbing emissions and coping with extreme weather to providing good, high-wage jobs and protecting essential workers.”

“People’s Action welcomes the introduction of Senator Markey and Representative Khanna’s Green New Deal for Health. The bill addresses our climate crisis and environmental injustice as a central component to improving people’s health in this country,” said Sulma Arias, Executive Director of People’s Action. “The legislation centers poor and working people and communities of color, who are disproportionately impacted by the intersection of climate and health, in creating a path to a green transition for the healthcare sector with good jobs while also preparing for climate change related disasters. This bill is an important step in the right direction and we urge Congress to take it up as soon as possible.” 

“Stopping the climate crisis will require us to transform every aspect of our society, our economy and especially our health care system, to work for people and the planet. Senator Markey's Green New Deal for Health finally addresses the staggering, often-overlooked costs to our health from fossil-fuel generated air pollution and climate change, and begins to build a system where people and workers are taken care of. If our generation is going to have a shot at a livable future, we must pass it as we strive towards our vision of a Green New Deal,” said Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of Sunrise Movement.

“The current healthcare system in the United States not only falls short of providing accessible, comprehensive care to all, but also is dangerously unprepared for changes due to the climate crisis,” said Hebah Kassem, Director of the Living Economy Program at the Sierra Club. “Senator Ed Markey’s proposed Green New Deal for Health would provide crucial funding for life-saving services such as community health centers and resiliency measures for both home infrastructure and medical facilities. It would also ensure that our health facilities do not contribute further to the climate crisis, by modernizing and weatherizing healthcare infrastructure along with strengthening green healthcare manufacturing. We must engage community members in the futures of their own health systems as we also create more good union healthcare jobs and support this vital workforce.”

“As we strive towards a healthier future, it is our shared responsibility to come together, face the challenges of the climate crisis head-on, build resilient communities, and ensure that essential healthcare remains accessible to all. Transhealth is happy to fully support the Green New Deal for Health. With this bold piece of legislation, we have the opportunity to embrace a whole-of-government approach, paving the way for a truly transformative healthcare system,” said Dallas Ducar, CEO of Transhealth.

“Health Care Without Harm is pleased to endorse the Green New Deal for Health Act. The Act will provide much-needed support for the health care sector’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve public health and resilience in the communities its hospitals serve, prioritizing those being disproportionately impacted by climate change. We have both an obligation and opportunity to accelerate the just transition to a low-carbon and resilient economy, with health care leading the transformation and modeling broader climate action,” said Emily Mediate, Director of U.S. Climate & Health Program at Health Care Without Harm.