Report flags care quality, experience disparities in Medicare Advantage

As is the case in the healthcare system at large, care quality and patient experience among Medicare Advantage enrollees vary along racial and ethnic lines, according to a new federal report.

The annual report, produced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Office of Minority Health and the RAND Corporation, provides data regarding 27 clinical care measures and eight patient experience measures collected from government surveys in 2014.

Here's a sampling of the findings:

  • Asians or Pacific Islanders, blacks and Hispanics reported that it was less easy to access needed care, as well as quickly obtain appointments, than did whites. American Indians or Alaska natives reported similar experiences as whites.
  • Asians or Pacific Islanders reported that it was harder to get information and help from their plan than did whites, while American Indians or Alaska natives, blacks and Hispanics reported similar experiences as whites.
  • Asians or Pacific Islanders and Hispanics reported worse care coordination than did whites, while American Indians or Alaska natives and blacks reported care coordinator experiences similar to that of whites.
  • Asians or Pacific Islanders with diabetes were more likely than whites with diabetes to have their blood sugar level under control--but blacks and Hispanics were less likely than whites to have it under control.
  •  Asians or Pacific Islanders, blacks and Hispanics were slightly less likely than whites to have had an ambulatory or preventive care visit.
  • Asians or Pacific Islanders and Hispanics were more likely than whites to have been appropriately screened for colorectal cancer, but blacks were less likely.

CMS hopes to use the data to work with Medicare Advantage plans to close gaps in care--an issue it will explore in an April 29 congressional forum focused on achieving health equity, Inside Health Policy reports. The agency also is targeting geographic differences in the health of Medicare patients with the introduction of a new interactive map made for tracking those disparities.

"While these data do not tell us why differences exist, they show where we have problems and can help spur efforts to understand what can be done to reduce or eliminate these differences," Cara James, director of the CMS Office of Minority Health, tells the publication.

To learn more:
- here's the report
- read the Inside Health Policy article

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