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Improving Health Equity

Lawmakers can reduce racial health disparities through targeted policy changes
February 10, 2021

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Rep. Bartleman (D- ) & Sen. Rodriquez (R-Miami) filed HB 899/SB 1272, "Managed Care Plan Performance," which requires AHCA to collect Medicaid health outcome data by race, ethnicity & disability.

Improving health outcomes for Black and Brown Floridians

Lawmakers in Florida should heed the call to make reducing health and health care disparities a prime directive, especially given the staggering rates of infection and death in communities of color due to the pandemic.

Florida Policy Institute has previously reported on the unique opportunity that the Medicaid program provides for addressing disparities. Thirty-four percent of Medicaid enrollees are Hispanic and 26 percent are Black.

As part of its Medicaid oversight responsibilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) collects and publishes data on quality measures. This includes access to preventive care, controlling high blood pressure, medication management for people with asthma, and hospital readmissions.

In recent years, AHCA has reported significant improvement on these measures. But questions remain: Are people of color and other historically underserved groups benefiting from these improvements? Does Florida's Medicaid program help reduce health disparities?

Florida Department of Health data show that Floridians of color experience higher rates of illness and death from a number of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, specific cancers, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, mental health, and asthma.

HB 899 and SB 1272 would require the state to disaggregate or break down MCO performance measure data based on race, ethnicity, disability, and other demographics; to publicly report these measures; and to use these measures to monitor plan performance.

Multiple other states are already doing this, as well as the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for Medicare Part C plans.

Experts agree that to develop and implement targeted strategies to reduce disparities, you must first identify where they exist. This "does not, in and of itself, guarantee…any actions to reduce or eliminate disparities… The absence of data, however, essentially guarantees that none of those actions will occur."

It is critical for policymakers to pass HB 899 and SB 1272 and take this crucial first step to meaningfully address health disparities.

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