| December 5, 2006


For Release:
December 5, 2006
Contact: Jill Braunstein at (202) 452-8097

WASHINGTON, DC—The federal Medicare program should take a much more active role in reducing disparities in health care for racial and ethnic minorities, according to a new report released by an independent panel of the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). The panel finds that these disparities pose a pressing national problem.

“Medicare has a unique opportunity to achieve reductions in disparities because of its leverage as the largest purchaser and regulator of health care,” said Bruce Vladeck, chair of the study panel and Interim President of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. “In fact, the panel concludes that Medicare is obligated to take the lead in reducing disparities—and makes 17 specific recommendations to those who set policy for and administer the program.”

The study panel is a diverse group that includes academics, physicians, health plan administrators, and executives of health care companies and organizations (list attached). Its recommendations fall into five categories: Improving the quality of clinical care for underserved minorities, Increasing financial access to care and access to health care providers, Educating health professionals to improve diversity and cultural competence, Holding health care providers responsible for reducing disparities, and Making the reduction of disparities a top administrative priority and focus.

“In each of these areas,” the panel concludes, “Medicare has tools that it can use to help reduce disparities. Some would require legislation, but most could be implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services within their current statutory authority.”

The panel’s recommendations and their rationale are described in detail in its final report, Strengthening Medicare’s Role in Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. As part of its work, the panel also published three issue briefs and five working papers. All these publications are available for download free-of-charge from the NASI website, www.nasi.org.

The National Academy of Social Insurance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and other social insurance programs. Its mission is to promote understanding and informed policymaking on social insurance and related programs through research, public education, training, and the open exchange of ideas. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided the primary financial support for this project. Additional funding was provided by The California Endowment and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org

The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation, was established in 1996 to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment makes grants to organizations and institutions that directly benefit the health and well being of the people of California. For more information, visit www.calendow.org.
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See related news: Medicare and Health Policy

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