Better Medicaid data could improve health equity, professors say

More thorough data collection on Medicaid patients could help relieve health disparities, three health policy professors argued in a May 24 Health Affairs article.

Even though Medicaid insures more than 86 million Americans, a lack of high-quality data makes it difficult to analyze the state of health equity in the program, the authors wrote. They recommend:

1. Improving the quality of existing data by encouraging beneficiaries to identify their race and ethnicity by explaining the importance of it and augmenting that self-reporting with other data sources, like vital records, EHRs and information from other state-administered programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

2. Implementing a national Medicaid survey — which hasn't been done since 2014 — because the current data sources rely on diagnostic codes that undercount individuals who lack access to care. These people include racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved groups.

"CMS and many state Medicaid programs have recently indicated that health equity is a priority. Now, investment in the data infrastructure needed to continuously evaluate the state of health equity in the program must follow," wrote Brittany Brown-Podgorski, PhD, MPH, and Eric Roberts, PhD, both of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and William Schpero, PhD, of Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

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