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CMS releases first ever plan to address health equity in Medicare

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH), unveiled the first CMS plan to address health equity in Medicare. The CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare (CMS Equity Plan for Medicare) is an action-oriented plan that focuses on six priority areas and aims to reduce health disparities in four years.

The plan was released at a conference entitled: Medicare & Medicaid at 50: Their Past, Present, and Future Impact on Health Equity, which was held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid and the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, also known as the Heckler Report.

“As we strive to create a health care system that provides better care, spends dollars more wisely and creates healthier people, CMS is committed to achieving equity for minority and other underserved populations and eliminating health disparities among Medicare beneficiaries,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt.

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 priorities and activities described in the plan were developed during a rigorous year-long process in collaboration with NORC at the University of Chicago, which included examining evidence, identifying opportunities, and gathering input from a broad array of stakeholders across the country. Six priority areas and several high-yield activities serve as the plan’s foundation.  They include:

  • Priority 1: Expand the Collection, Reporting, and Analysis of Standardized Data
  • Priority 2: Evaluate Disparities Impacts and Integrate Equity Solutions Across CMS Programs
  • Priority 3: Develop and Disseminate Promising Approaches to Reduce Health Disparities
  • Priority 4: Increase the Ability of the Health Care Workforce to Meet the Needs of Vulnerable  Populations
  • Priority 5: Improve Communication and Language Access for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency and Persons with Disabilities
  • Priority 6: Increase Physical Accessibility of Health Care Facilities

“Making sure care is equitable is often the forgotten core area of focus for ensuring that the health system is meeting patient needs and delivering high quality care. The CMS Equity Plan for Medicare will help to ensure that as we work towards better care, smarter spending, and healthier people we also continue to work to achieve health equity in Medicare,” said Cara James, director of the CMS Office of Minority Health. “We know that in order to achieve the goals of the plan, we need to work with many stakeholders, and we hope that as we start to implement the activities in the plan, we will see a number of them join us on the path to equity.”

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:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) established Offices of Minority Health within six agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The CMS Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) collaborates with local and other federal partners to improve minority health and eliminate health disparities by ensuring that the voices and the needs of the populations it represents (racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, and people with disabilities) are present as the Agency is developing, implementing, and evaluating its programs and policies.