“As CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, I have been saddened and horrified by the brutal death of George Floyd while in police custody. His death represents one of the most recent in a long history of violence against black people, including Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others. As communities across the state and the nation voice their justified anger and frustration, we stand with the Black community and all communities of color. This tragic event reminds our leadership and staff of the urgent need to continue to address structural racism as a way to narrow health disparities, especially in communities of color.
“We, too, are deeply concerned about the property damage taking place in our cities. It is harmful to so many people, including the communities who are working to make their voice heard. We choose to focus on the protestors’ message of racial justice over the damage being committed by a disorganized few, because property is replaceable and Black lives are not.
“As we remain committed to addressing social determinants of health and expanding access to affordable health insurance, we must also ask ourselves why persistent disparities remain in communities of color, especially the black community. As our Board Chair Ron Sims states, ‘We also know that the stressors of racism and discrimination may be contributing to poor health. A highly educated, professional African-American woman is more than twice as likely to have a child with very low birth weight, compared with a white woman with a high-school diploma or less.’
“The Exchange supports and stands with the individuals fighting for racial justice. Diversity, equity, and inclusion principles are embedded in our mission, our Board Equity statement, our organization’s decision-making processes, and the Exchange’s core work. We’ve worked hard to develop and implement our diversity, equity, and inclusion principles across the Exchange. We’re committed to providing ongoing equity and inclusion training to all and also acknowledge we still have a lot of work to do in solidarity with historically marginalized and oppressed communities — Black, Indigenous and People of Color, individuals with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community.
“The Exchange Board Equity statement is as follows:
“At the Exchange, the events of the past week reinforce that we must steady our resolve to achieve the goal in our equity statement. Every day is another opportunity to examine our own biases that lead to fear, hatred and mistrust. We must work to change our own hearts and minds. Together, we can change the systems in which we work and live.”
Pam MacEwan, CEO