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Disparities Council Discusses Health Inequities

Disparities Council Discusses Health Inequities

May 1, 2009

On Monday, the Health Disparities Council heard presentations from a variety of stakeholders working to address health inequities in communities of color. Experts from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, MassHealth, the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, and the Health Insurance Connector Authority provided updates on the challenges for both insured and uninsured populations in the state.

Jarrett Barrios of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and Kate Nordahl of the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy discussed the ongoing barriers to health care for immigrant populations and Hispanics. Both noted that Hispanic families and children are least likely to have a usual source of care and are more likely to visit the emergency room for preventable conditions. Despite healthcare insurance expansion, linguistic barriers, barriers rooted in age, socioeconomic status, citizenship status and disability status persist.

Director of Medicaid Tom Dehner addressed MassHealth issues, emphasizing the need for improved race/ethnicity data collection to track the enrolled population and health outcomes. Standardized self report data from all enrollees is a continued goal for the program, and they are working to use appropriate health IT systems for data collection.

The State’s Health Insurance Connector Authority was represented by Michael Chin, who described the Connector’s Advisory Committee on Disparities. They are monitoring the state’s new health insurance programs with attention to outreach and enrollment issues for underserved communities. He reiterated the need for standardized high quality data to have an accurate picture of the programs’ impact and challenges.

The next meeting of the Council will take place on May 18th, and will build on this month’s presentations to continue developing its recommendations for the state. Stay tuned to the HCFA website for updates. To join the Council mailing list, contact Yashira Peppin at Yashira.Pepin@state.ma.us.