Unlocking Race and Ethnicity Data to Promote Health Equity in California: Proposals for State Action

COVID-19 has illuminated systemic racial and ethnic inequities in our healthcare system and catalyzed an unprecedented call to action to address their root causes. It also has revealed the dearth of reliable and standardized race and ethnicity (R/E) data available to identify multidimensional contributors to disparities, design effective initiatives to drive improvement and measure progress.  R/E data gaps limit the ability of healthcare stakeholders—including states, plans, consumer organizations and providers—to meaningfully advance equitable healthcare delivery.  R/E data limitations obscure the line of sight as to where disconnects are present and reforms are needed while leaving a persistently clear view of the system’s failures:  higher rates of chronic disease, higher infant mortality rates, and lower life expectancies for many racial and ethnic populations.

Health plans are well-positioned to collect R/E data and then use this information to promote health equity.  However, plans also face several data collection challenges that result in significant reporting gaps.  In fact, two-thirds of commercial health plans, half of Medicaid plans and more than a quarter of Medicare plans have race data missing for more than half of their membership, with ethnicity data sparser still.

In a new white paper prepared in partnership with Blue Shield of California, Manatt Health discusses common health plan R/E data collection challenges, and how California can help mitigate these barriers and equip all health system stakeholders with crucial information to promote health equity.  The paper includes recommendations for improving R/E data collection and reporting.

To access the full white paper, click here.

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