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Closing Gaps In Health Care

posted by Nikolas Wong

on March 5, 2019

Health insurance providers Centene and HealthPartners are stepping up to overcome two of the largest health care disparities that affect underserved communities: limited language proficiency and limited accessibility. These disparities keep millions of people from getting the quality health care services they need to improve their health and well-being.

Studies show that people with limited language proficiency have an increased risk of hospital readmissions and longer stays in inpatient and emergency room settings. Similarly,  those with limited accessibility are more likely to have poor health outcomes. Centene and HealthPartners established initiatives to tackle these issues.

With 22 percent of physician practices unable to accommodate a patient in a wheelchair, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, individuals with a disability often have worse access to health care. So in 2018, Centene launched its Provider Accessibility Initiative (PAI)  with selected providers in Texas, Illinois, and Ohio, to improve the accessibility of their facilities for patients with disabilities. This included signage for the blind, and accessible examination tables and restrooms. One year after the initiative launched, the PAI has made it easier for over 36,000 Centene members to access their provider’s office and medical services.

Similarly, HealthPartners launched culturally tailored initiatives to meet the needs of racial and ethnic minorities in its communities. For example, HealthPartners established a language assistance plan to accommodate patients and their family members who do not speak English as their primary language. The plan involves spoken and sign language assistance services that help improve every patient’s experience and health.

Additionally, HealthPartners established cultural competency training for its staff. This builds an understanding of equity, diversity, inclusion, and bias throughout the organization. The results of their initiatives include:

  • In one year, the colorectal screening gap between white and racial and ethnic minority patients closed by one-third.
  • The disparity in anti-depression medication compliance between whites and racial and ethnic minorities shrank by one-third over three years.
  • The gap in mental health length of stay between patients with limited English proficiency and those who prefer to communicate in English was nearly eliminated in one year.

These organizations and their progress show the health insurance community’s commitment to overcoming health care disparities. We understand that every patient has different needs and AHIP and our members are working to better identify and meet those needs to bring us closer to health equality.


To learn more about health care disparities and factors influencing health, attend AHIP’s Institute and Expo, June 19-21 in Nashville.

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