Payers and providers aren't sure how to use new payment models to reduce care disparities

Though healthcare disparities are well-documented, and the healthcare industry commonly cites the issue as one that needs to be resolved, providers and payers haven’t quite figured out how to link reducing disparities to new payment models, according to a new study. 

Finding Answers: Solving Disparities through Payment and Delivery System Reform, a program spearheaded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, solicited applications for grants from both payers and providers on programs that could better link these two issues, according to a Grantwatch paper published in Health Affairs.

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Just 40 applications were submitted, down from 177 for a previous health disparities initiative, which could be a sign that the industry is unsure of how to proceed with tying disparities to payment reform.

None of the applications initially linked the two elements, and most were unclear on how new payment models would impact providers’ desire to reduce disparities, despite being asked to specify that in the applications.

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“Tying payment incentives to patient outcome measures is a potentially powerful lever for reducing health disparities,” Scott Cook, Ph.D., deputy director of Finding Answers and one of the study’s co-authors, said in an announcement (PDF). “We hope that the lessons learned by the current grantees will help inform future interventions and give providers and payers a basis for working together to reduce disparities.”

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 The three rewarded programs are:

  • George Mason University, Virginia: A program that applies team quality improvements targeting screening and disease management for multilingual patients at Northern Virginia safety-net clinics.
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York: A program that uses physician incentives and coordinated care to increase access to postpartum care for high-risk, Medicaid-covered women.
  • University of Washington: A community-based oral care program targeting poor women and children in rural Oregon.