The Health Industry’s Progress Toward Equity and Eliminating Disparities: A Look at Health Plans

Throughout the year, this site has been exploring how leaders within various sectors of the healthcare industry – members of the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) – have been taking bold steps to advance equity and eliminate health and healthcare disparities in this country.

The pursuit of equity is an important priority for HLC and its member companies. We fervently believe that the United States has the world’s best, most innovative healthcare, but it is critical that the lives of all of our citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, place of residence and other socioeconomic factors are strengthened by accessible, affordable, high-quality care.

Today in this space, we’re going to take a look at what some of the nation’s leading health coverage providers are doing to address health disparities. It is important to note that, in the interests of space, we are providing just a brief summary of some of the actions these companies are taking, not the entirety of their considerable efforts.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, commonly referred to as Blue Cross NC, is investing in data to learn more about the health challenges of its members and sharing that information across the healthcare system. Blue Cross NC is aligning its member race/ethnicity data with the federal Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Minority Health and will do the same regarding sexual orientation and gender identity once standards are established at the federal level. And in its interactions with providers, vendors and other organizations, Blue Cross NC is encouraging standardization in data exchange.

Other equity priorities for Blue Cross NC including using technology and stakeholder relationships to reduce bias and racial disparities in maternal and child care, working with behavioral health providers to increase diverse representation and their presence in underserved communities, and engaging people across North Carolina in actionable conversations about healthcare affordability and coverage.

Blue Cross NC is also partnering with health systems and other providers groups to pilot approaches developing key equity measures and is tying value-based care to closing health disparities in its contracting with providers and vendors.

CVS Health engages in cross-enterprise initiatives to advance health equity, with a focus on disparities in heart health, mental health, and women’s health. The company advances its health equity strategy by providing training and learning opportunities to accelerate its ability to help every customer, member and patient it serves achieve optimal health, and it uses data analytics to identify inequities and to take action in addressing them. They work to embed health equity principles and practices across the organization through the use of a business unit assessment tool that assesses and then drives intentional action steps to advance health equity within distinct business units.

Aetna, a CVS Health company, helps ensure all Medicaid and Medicare members have an opportunity to be as healthy as possible by coordinating care and providing access to health care providers and quality services in local communities. Aetna’s Medicare Multicultural Initiative improves blood pressure control and depression screenings and care for Medicare members through culturally responsive care management, provider education and engagement.

Aetna’s Medicaid Better Together Social Impact Solutions helps ensure Medicaid members are directly connected to high quality services right in their local communities, and helps providers identify ways to support patients most in need and fill community-level social care gaps.

CVS Caremark is investing in programs that address barriers to care to alleviate inequities for historically marginalized communities. It focuses on three conditions that disproportionately affect people of color – sickle cell disease, HIV and heart disease.

Elevance Health is dedicated to advancing health equity, committing itself to what it calls “health equity by design.” It’s a personalized and intentional approach to ensure that all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and geographic or financial access can receive individualized care. Elevance has comprehensive long-term goals to broadly advance health equity, such as ensuring that people with disabilities and rural residents can find accessible care. Additionally, in the near term, Elevance is prioritizing three areas to drive immediate progress: maternal health, behavioral health, and access to evidence-based medical therapy.

Also, Elevance is continuing to work with HHS and its affiliated trade associations on policy recommendations to align data collection and interoperability standards. Through its foundation’s financial commitments, it is continuing to strengthen, deepen and diversity its community-based organization partnerships. And Elevance is enhancing partnerships with care providers to advance health equity through a heightened focus on provider incentives, education and value-based purchasing incentives.

Elevance is integrating health equity into its business processes and priorities, and will convene cross-sector leaders, establish partnerships, and exchange best practices in addressing health and healthcare inequities.