On September 8, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) introduced an Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare. Aimed at eliminating health disparities experienced by underserved populations, the plan focuses on six priority areas and seeks to reduce health disparities in four years.
A Press Release issued by the CMS Office of Minority Health (Sept. 8, 2015) describes the plan: (https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2015-Press-releases-items/2015-09-08.html)
“The Equity Plan focuses on Medicare populations that experience disproportionately high burdens of disease, lower quality of care, and barriers accessing care. These include racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities, and those living in rural areas.”
The plans’ six priority areas and “high-yield activities” include:
- Expand the Collection, Reporting, and Analysis of Standardized Data
- Evaluate Disparities Impacts and Integrate Equity Solutions Across CMS Programs
- Develop and Disseminate Promising Approaches to Reduce Health Disparities
- Increase the Ability of the Health Care Workforce to Meet the Needs of Vulnerable Populations
- Improve Communication and Language Access for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency and Persons with Disabilities
- Increase Physical Accessibility of Health Care Facilities
The Press Release continues: “The foundation for addressing each of the plan’s priorities includes the following interconnected principles that guide CMS’ efforts to achieve health equity:
- Increasing understanding and awareness of disparities;
- Developing and disseminating solutions; and
- Taking sustainable action and evaluating progress.
To learn more about the six priorities and achieving health equity in Medicare visit: https://www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/omh/index.html.”
The Center for Medicare Advocacy is pleased to see CMS moving to actively study, remove and monitor barriers to heath care for people who have been underserved in the health insurance and delivery system. We urge CMS to institutionalize these activities to ensure they continue as new insurance and care models emerge – and federal leadership changes. At the same time, current harmful Medicare practices and proposals should be reconsidered in light of these goals, such as increasing cost-sharing and limiting coverage for prostheses and other home and community-based services.