DC Health Link Adopts Recommendations to Reduce Health Disparities

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In Fall 2020, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority’s Executive Board established a Social Justice and Health Disparities Working Group to “examine practices, structures, and policies that can be implemented to (1) expand access to providers and health systems for communities of color in the district; (2) eliminate health outcome disparities for communities of color in the district; and (3) ensure equitable treatment for patients of color in health care services in the district.”

After several stakeholder meetings, the Working Group released its recommendations in a new report. In the report, the Working Group recognized that despite 96 percent of DC resident having health coverage, many residents of color still had difficulties accessing services due to a lack of hospitals, urgent care facilities, and providers of color in areas of DC. To address this issue, the Working Group recommended incentivizing both primary care providers and specialists to practice in underserved areas, providing scholarships for students of color to enter the health profession, and creating a five-year goal to improve diversity in networks. The Working Group also identified the need for collecting comprehensive data on race, ethnicity, and language to better understand and reduce inequities. It suggested potentially modifying certain health plans to eliminate patient cost-sharing requirements, including deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments for prescription drugs, supplies, and disease management for diseases that disproportionately impact patients of color. Additionally, the Working Group recommended implementing cultural competency training to mitigate implicit bias and reviewing clinical algorithms and diagnostic tools for biases as well.

On July 14, 2021, DC Benefit Health Exchange Authority Executive Board unanimously adopted the Working Groups recommendations. Aimed Alliance supports the DC Benefit Health Exchange Authority’s efforts to address systemic health disparities. The full report from the Working Group can be found here.

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