Health Insurers Collecting Race, Ethnicity Data

By

Washington

More and more health insurers are collecting data on the race and ethnicity of their insureds, which is an essential step toward addressing gaps in care, says a new study.

Based on responses from 137 health plans that responded to a survey, the study found that 53.5% of enrollees are covered by health insurers that collect data on race and ethnicity.

The study was conducted jointly by America?s Health Insurance Plans and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The results were released at a press briefing.

Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says the goal of the study is to help reduce the disparity in treatment faced by minority groups.

She notes that recent studies have shown that there is an overall problem with quality of health care. Indeed, Lavizzo-Mourey says, 50% of the time patients do not receive the care recommended by the latest scientific evidence. Studies also show, she says, that racial and ethnic minorities receive an even lower standard of care.

Collecting this type of information, Lavizzo-Mourey says, can help improve health care quality.

While data collection alone will not solve the problem, she says, without it the nation will not be able to commit itself to improving quality.

Lavizzo-Mourey notes that collecting data on race and ethnicity is a very sensitive matter, raising privacy and other concerns.

But Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP, says once the reasons for collecting the data are explained, people are more comfortable with it but still need assurances the data will not be misused.

She notes that the health plans that collect racial and ethnic data do so primarily to identify and reach out to individuals with risk factors for certain health conditions who may benefit from disease management programs.

In addition, Ignagni says, these plans also want to reach out to certain populations.

She says that the health care literature is replete with discussions about the nature of the problem of racial and ethnic gaps in health care but is very thin on solutions.

AHIP, Ignagni says, wants to contribute to the effort of shifting the focus to solutions.

“AHIP intends to serve as a hub for exchanging information on what is working to overcome gaps in care experienced by minorities in our health care system” she says.

Ignagni says that to best retrieve this type of information, the system needs a common language as well as standards on how to obtain it.

Moreover, she says, the issue of gaps in minority health care must be tied to the broader issue of health care quality. “We must bring everyone up to best practices,” Ignagni says.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, June 18, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.