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CMS Releases Interactive Tool to Map Medicare Disparities

March 22, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of Minority Health released an interactive map, called the Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool, to increase understanding of geographic disparities in chronic disease among Medicare beneficiaries.

The Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool identifies disparities in health outcomes, utilization and spending by race and ethnicity and geographic location. “The MMD tool is expected to help government agencies, policymakers, researchers, community-based organizations, health providers, quality improvement organizations and the general public analyze chronic disease disparities, identifying how a region or population may differ from the state or national average. Understanding geographic differences in disparities is important to informing policy decisions and efficiently targeting populations and geographies for interventions CMS stated in a media release,” CMS stated in a media release.

“Our commitment to health equity begins with properly measuring the care people get and having an honest dialogue on how and where we need to improve,” CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said. “Today’s tool aims to make it harder for disparities to go unaddressed.”

CMS developed the MMD Tool in collaboration with KPMG LLP and NORC at the University of Chicago as part of the CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare.

Racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases, and are more likely to experience difficulty accessing high quality of care than other individuals. The identification of areas with large differences in the proportions of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic diseases is an important step for informing and planning health equity activities and initiatives, CMS stated.

The Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool features:

  • A dynamic interface with data on the prevalence of 18 chronic conditions, end stage renal disease, or a disability; Medicare spending, hospital and emergency department (ED) utilization, preventable hospitalizations, readmissions, and mortality rates.
  • The ability to sort by state or county of residence, sex, age, dual-eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid, and race and ethnicity.
  • Built-in benchmarking features to investigate disparities within counties and across racial and ethnic groups, and within racial and ethnic groups across counties.

CMS OMH collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other centers and offices within CMS, in designing the MMD Tool to ensure that it would add value by building on existing tools.

Additionally, the MMD Tool includes information on the prevalence, costs, and hospitalizations of beneficiaries having ESRD and/or a disability based on the original or current reason for entitlement.

The interactive mapping tool presents health-related measures from Medicare claims by sex, age, dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid, race and ethnicity, and state and county via a public interactive website.

“It’s not enough to improve average health care quality in the U.S.,” CMS OMH Director Cara James said. “As the CMS Equity Plan lays out, we must identify gaps in quality of care at all levels of the health care system to address disparities. We are excited to share this new tool, which allows us to pinpoint disparities in health care outcomes by population and condition.”

CMS released a MMD Tool Overview to provide more information about the tool and its data sources. And CMS also released the MMD Tool Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), the Quick Start Guide, and the MMD Tool Technical Documentation.

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