Black History Month inspires us to celebrate the rich history, achievements, and contributions of African Americans in our nation, as well as the hard work that remains to dismantle racism and achieve true racial equality. We agree with Dr. King that fighting injustice in health care is an urgent civil rights issue central to achieving our shared dream of peace, prosperity, and equality for our children. But it is clear that a focus on health care alone will not achieve health equity for African Americans.
Recent actions by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) represent an encouraging recognition–by one of the biggest payers of health care in the nation—that one-size-fits all payment reforms do not benefit everyone equally.
And they raise the question of whether some of these pay-for-performance programs should be adjusted to better address racial and ethnic health disparities.
In early January, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation announced its first program focused on addressing a patient’s social needs. This 5-year, $157 million pilot program, called Accountable Health Communities, will try to bridge the gap between clinical and social services, testing whether addressing these needs can improve health, lower costs, and improve quality for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.