CMS rolls out plan to reduce healthcare outcomes disparities

Providers continue to struggle with how to address unconscious care quality disparities, but a new plan from the federal goverment aims to reduce inequities in healthcare for underserved, high-risk populations.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services worked with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago over the past year to develop the plan, which targets six key areas, with a goal of reducing outcomes disparities over the next four years.

The high-risk populations targeted included racial and ethnic minorities, sexual/gender minorities, rural patients and disabled people. The plan aims to:

  • Expand standardized data collection/analysis
  • Assess the effect of disparities across CMS programs
  • Develop approaches to reduce those disparities
  • Expand available resources for addressing vulnerable patients' healthcare needs
  • Increase communication access for disabled or non-English-proficient patients
  • Remove physical accessibility barriers in facilities

"Making sure care is equitable is often the forgotten core area of focus for ensuring that the health system is meeting patient needs and delivering high-quality care," Cara James, director of CMS' Office of Minority Health, said in a statement. "The CMS Equity Plan for Medicare will help to ensure that as we work towards better care, smarter spending, and healthier people we also continue to work to achieve health equity in Medicare."

The plan comes a full 30 years after a 1985 report from then-Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler on disparities within the healthcare system, and since then, despite progress on certain measures, many of the identified inequities have persisted, even as overall coverage increases due to the Affordable Care Act. 

To learn more:
- read the CMS plan (.pdf)
- here's the CMS statement