Racial and ethnic disparities in health care are the result of complex issues that cannot be eliminated with a single strategy or by any one group. Efforts to address inequities and gaps in care require a clear vision, strong leadership, systematic change, and collaboration among key stakeholders, including consumers, clinicians, hospitals, employers, health plans, government agencies, and the community at large.
Health plans play a key role initiating and leading change in the collection of data on race, ethnicity, and primary language; cross-cultural communication training of health care professionals; improvements in clear health communication; development of quality improvement programs to reduce disparities; and measuring progress over time.
Health Care Equity Core Elements
A promising approach to improving health care quality and reducing disparities is the use of clear and effective health communication. Clear and simple health information enhances a consumer’s ability to effectively navigate the health care system and make well-informed decisions. A growing number of health plans are actively engaged in working to improve health literacy, either as a self standing initiative or through their disparities and quality improvement efforts.
Data Collection on Race, Ethnicity and Language
Strong evidence suggests that race, ethnicity, language and socio-cultural factors impact how health care is accessed and delivered. Collection of these data are vital for identifying variations in the quality of care experience among different groups; developing and implementing effective prevention and treatment strategies; and facilitating the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate health care.
From 2003-2011, the AHIP Foundation collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to assess the extent to which health plans collect and use data on their members’ race, ethnicity, and language to improve quality and health care equity. Four representative surveys of the industry (2003, 2006, 2008, and 2010) highlight the experience of commercial, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid plans.
Health plans have a long standing tradition and commitment to support efforts to improve language and culturally appropriate communications by increasing the availability of language access services and developing culturally-appropriate educational materials in multiple languages to better reach a diverse membership.
Health plans recognize the importance of understanding cultural differences and their impact on how individuals access appropriate health care services and manage their health. Cross-cultural programs geared for diverse audiences and training for health care professionals can build a solid foundation to improve quality of care and reduce health care disparities among our nation’s growing diverse population.
Measuring Quality Improvement and Disparities-Reduction
Health plans have a tradition of sharing information on successful models to encourage adoption of proven strategies. Health plan case studies featuring innovative practices demonstrate improvements and lessons towards achieving health care equity. These programs serve as examples of promising approaches for institutionalizing meaningful change.
National Health Plan Collaborative members highlight innovative programs and services designed to reduce disparities in care and address the cultural and linguistic needs of diverse populations, February 2013.
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Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data by Health Plans Has Grown Substantially, But Opportunities Remain to Expand Efforts, Health Affairs
Since 2003, Americas Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and its member companies have been working to increase awareness on the importance of collecting race, ethnicity, and primary language data of its enrollees to address disparities in health care and improve overall quality of care for all Americans.
Over the past three years, health insurance plans have made significant strides in collecting race and ethnicity data of enrollees to help reduce disparities.
Health Insurance Plans Address Disparities in Care: Highlights of AHIP/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Quantitative and Qualitative Research Grant Provided By: 3 Health Insurance Plans Address Disparities in Care: Highlights of AHIP/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Quantitative and Qualitative Research BACKGROUND . . . .
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a landmark report indicating that racial and ethnic minorities receive lower quality health care than non-minorities.
Health Insurance Plans Address Disparities in Care: Highlights of a 2004 AHIP/RWJF Quantitative Survey Collection and Use of Data on Race and Ethnicity Collection and Use of Data on Race and Ethnicity Americas Health Insurance Plans Background FAST FACTS The 137 plans that responded to the survey represent 88.1 million