Maryland Representative Asks CMS Administrator To Address Studies on Racial Disparities in Health Care
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in a letter on Thursday asked CMS Administrator Mark McClellan to respond to the results of three studies published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine that found disparities in health care for black patients, the Baltimore Sun reports (Bell, Baltimore Sun, 8/19). According to the studies, while some improvements have been made in narrowing the health care treatment gap, many disparities remain for black patients, including less access to operations, tests, medications and other treatments (California Healthline, 8/18).
Cummings wrote, "What can account for such obvious racial bias in the provision of care to elderly African Americans, and what steps do you intend to take to eliminate this bias?"
Medicare spokesperson Mary Kahn said she had not viewed the letter. She also noted that grants will be awarded this year in Medicare's previously announced program to improve early detection and treatment of cancer and reduce disparities among beneficiaries who are racial minorities (Baltimore Sun, 8/19).
The NEJM studies "reconfirmed ... that, despite years of being spotlighted, the disparities persist," a Baltimore Sun editorial states. A solution to the problem "requires a comprehensive approach," including a boost in public and private funding to "increase diversity among all health care workers" in order to "break down cultural and other barriers between minorities and health care providers," according to the editorial.
A proposal to increase federal funding for the creation and expansion of 1,200 community health centers "is a sign of progress," the editorial states. In Maryland, however, "inadequate funding has ... meant a slow start" for the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities, which was created in 2004.
The editorial concludes, "the sooner disparities in health care can be eliminated, the sooner everyone will reap the benefits" (Baltimore Sun, 8/18).