The company began mailing paper surveys earlier this year to members who hadn’t responded on the app—a multimillion-dollar endeavor, according to Friedberg. So far, it’s mailed 700,000 surveys requesting information on about 1.4 million members. Each survey asked about all members on a policy and included a postage-paid return envelope, with the option to respond online.
BCBS of Massachusetts said it’s too early to determine the survey’s return rate.
The insurer is also planning to add race and ethnicity data collection to the online enrollment process and is outlining pilots for some of its partner-employers to share members’ self-reported race and ethnicity data directly.
As of July, the insurer had gathered race and ethnicity data from about 20% of its members. It aims to get to at least 80% in the next two to three years. In the meantime, the insurer is still using what it calls “statistically estimated” race and ethnicity data to supplement the information.
The company’s efforts are beginning to produce insights. Last year, it published a report breaking out measures such as high blood pressure management and well-child visits by race and ethnicity.
“We shared that with the community on our website, as part of our commitment that we’re making to hold ourselves accountable for reducing and ultimately eliminating inequities in care,” said Deanna Fulp, the insurer’s senior director of health equity.
BCBS of Massachusetts also uses the data it gathers to create reports for providers in its alternative quality contracts, a value-based payment model. The reports measure race and ethnicity disparities specifically in the provider’s patient population. The company is adding a component to its alternative quality contracts next year tying provider financial incentives to equity of care.
Friedberg said it was important to get started and not let “perfect” be the enemy of the good.
“People should just go ahead and do it,” he said of insurers collecting race and ethnicity data. “There’s no reason any health plan can’t start right now.”
Health Net, a Centene subsidiary in California, has used its own member data to shape outreach strategies, such as those concerning COVID-19 vaccines.
For years, the insurer has collected race and ethnicity information through forms members fill out when applying for health insurance. The company also asks members about such demographics when they call customer service, and the data might be shared by healthcare providers too.
After crunching the numbers on who had been vaccinated for COVID-19 and stratifying the results by race and geography, Health Net realized Black members had lower rates of vaccination than other racial groups in certain areas.
It responded by hosting events with Black-led community organizations where residents could get vaccinated. The company’s goal was to improve access by holding events on the weekends and other off-hours, along with providing a space where members would feel comfortable, said Dr. Pooja Mittal, chief health equity officer at Health Net.
In total, Health Net has hosted more than 210 mobile vaccination clinics and administered upwards of 22,000 vaccines.
“Use every opportunity to get data,” Mittal advised. “It really allows us to inform how we develop our programs and targeted initiatives.”
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