If insurers implement certain standards into their provider networks, they can help minority populations receive better care and thereby lower costs, according to a new issue brief from Families USA.
The problem is that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to have serious chronic diseases and suffer complications, which lead to worse health outcomes. But even with insurance coverage, these consumers often face obstacles to accessing doctors.
To help minority members, Families USA recommended that insurers enhance several aspects of their networks, including the following six steps:
1. Variety of providers: Networks should include different types of providers, especially essential community providers, who can address different healthcare needs. In fact, insurers selling plans on health insurance exchanges must include 30 percent of essential community providers in their area, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.
2. Adequate geographic distribution of providers: Insurers should contract with providers in diverse areas to help members, particularly minorities and low-income consumers who often depend on public transportation, from traveling unreasonably far for care.
3. Accessible hours: At least some of the providers in network should have offices that are open beyond the traditional 9am to 5pm weekday hours.
4. Timely access to care: Insurers' networks should include providers who can take appointments within a "reasonable amount of time," which can help minorities who have a higher rate of delayed diagnosis and treatment.
5. Language-accessible care: Networks should include doctors who speak the same language as their members and understand their patients' unique needs.
6. Accurate information about providers: Insurers must make accurate, up-to-date information about in-network providers available to their members and should list whether doctors speak other languages.
"When health plan provider networks meet these criteria, they contribute to better healthcare, and, ultimately, better health outcomes, for people of color," Claire McAndrew, Families USA's private insurance program director, wrote in the brief.
To learn more:
- read the Families USA issue brief