CMS hopes to close Medicare race, ethnicity gap

While anyone would argue that Medicare beneficiaries ought to the get the appropriate level of care regardless of their race or ethnic background, officials with Medicare aren't sure how to make this happen, according to experts addressing a Congressional briefing session this week. Right now, disparities definitely exist in how well minorities are cared for, both within and outside of the Medicare program. A recent report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that African American patients got worse care than whites across 73 percent of 22 quality criteria used in the study, while Hispanics got poorer care in 77 percent of cases, notably poorer levels of preventive services for heart disease and cancer as well as management of chronic diseases. Many also had trouble getting help quickly when they were hurt or had illnesses.

Health advocates have argued that one way to solve the problem would be to create specific programs designed to improve both access and quality. They noted that Medicare, with its enormous market power, is in a particularly good position to do so. Others, meanwhile, suggest that improving overall quality of care will help both minorities and non-minorities, and as the quality of care tide rises, that every patient will get better care regardless of their racial makeup.

For more information on Medicare's race/ethnicity conundrum:
- read this United Press International piece