In order to address racial and ethnic health inequities among Medicare beneficiaries, healthcare organizations must gather better data, provide patients with information in their native language and make it easier for people with disabilities to enter healthcare facilities.
Those are some of the top findings in a new report released last week by the CMS.
The report assesses a year's worth of work on implementing the CMS' Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare which the agency launched in September 2015. It's the federal government's first comprehensive approach at targeting health inequities based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“This year was really a building year for us to understand what was out there, where some of the challenges were, and how we can move forward,” said Cara James, director of the CMS' Office of Minority Health, adding that the next step is mapping a plan to address the issues.
The agency this year, launched a number of initiatives aimed at improving health equity among the 55 million Americans enrolled in Medicare. In April, the agency launched an online mapping tool that tracks areas where health disparities exist among Medicare populations.
Also this year the CMS expanded the scope of its From Coverage to Care program, which is designed to increase literacy on healthcare coverage and connect beneficiaries to healthcare services.
Though nonwhites make up less than a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries, a larger share of black and Hispanic beneficiaries are more likely to be under the age of 65, be in poorer health, and have less financial resources than white beneficiaries, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The CMS said it already has been working on solutions that include releasing a guide to preventing readmissions among Medicare patients of color and providing resources for standardized collection of data.
James said she was confident her agency's core work to address health disparities would not change even if new priorities are set under a Trump administration.
“The needs of the populations we focus on are still ones that will be there, and we'll continue to work on those,” James said.