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On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services outlined a multi-pronged action plan geared toward promoting health equity, which will be enacted throughout the agency and will focus on access, outcomes and outreach to better serve marginalized populations.
CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure has charged each CMS center and office – including the Center for Medicare (CM), the Center for Medicaid and CHIP (CMCS), Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) – with building health equity into their core work.
That work, the agency said, includes working with and sharing best practices across states, healthcare facilities, providers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, researchers and other key stakeholders.
Brooks-LaSure also invited healthcare industry leaders to make commitments to advance health equity and work with CMS to share best practices to address systemic inequities in care delivery.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT?
A number of actions are laid out in the strategy, and are meant to better identify and respond to inequities in outcomes, barriers to coverage and access.
CMS is aiming to close gaps in access, quality and outcomes for underserved populations, and to promote culturally and linguistically appropriate services that are responsive to a person’s preferred languages, as well as their level of health literacy.
The agency said it wants to build on outreach efforts to enroll eligible people across Medicare, Medicaid/CHIP and the federal marketplace. CMS also said it would expand and standardize the collection and use of data, including on race, ethnicity, preferred language, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, income, geography and other factors across CMS programs.
It will also be evaluating policies to determine how it can support safety net providers caring for underserved communities, and will screen for broader access to health-related social needs. These include greater adoption of related quality measures, coordination with community-based organizations, and collection of social needs data in standardized formats across CMS programs and activities.
Key pillars of the strategy include using CMS programs as models to advance health equity, and promoting the framework under the CMS National Quality Strategy.
To mark the progress of these initiatives, CMS will convene industry stakeholders, including healthcare facilities, insurance companies, state officials and providers. The first of these meetings will take place over the summer and will focus on ways to improve maternal health outcomes experienced by pregnant and postpartum people.
CMS and experts will invite healthcare industry leaders to share best practices and commitments to strengthen maternal health.
THE LARGER TREND
Brooks-LaSure told a crowd at the HIMSS22 annual conference in Orlando in March that interoperability is key to addressing health inequities. Data exchange is needed to understand gaps in the system, she said.
Technology can help in implementing six pillars, she said, which are: addressing health disparities, building on the Affordable Care Act, engaging partners and communities served, driving innovation to tackle health system challenges and promote value-based care, protecting program sustainability, and fostering a positive workplace and workforce.
ON THE RECORD
“Advancing health equity is the core work of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” said Brooks-LaSure. “We can’t achieve our health system goals until everyone can attain the highest level of health. That’s why I am inviting the healthcare industry to work alongside CMS as we transform the way patients are cared for in our country. Health equity will be embedded within the DNA of CMS and serve as the lens through which we view all of our work.
“Our vision is clear and our goal is straightforward – we will not stop until every person has a fair and just opportunity to attain their optimal health.”