Wall Street Journal Examines Health Insurer Efforts To Collect Racial Data To Reduce Health Care Quality Disparities
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday examined health insurers' collection of data about members' race and ethnicity as part of a "burgeoning effort" to reduce health care quality disparities. A survey released Tuesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group representing health insurers, found that 51% of health plans either request that beneficiaries voluntarily disclose their racial background or use "less direct methods to obtain aggregate data on the racial makeup" of their membership, the Journal reports. About 137 health plans with more than 88 million members participated in the survey. According to the Journal, the number of plans gathering racial data "reflect[s] the increasing attention government agencies and private-sector companies are bringing to the issue of unequal health care for minority groups." However, many plans, which are concerned that critics will accuse them of racial-profiling or of intending to use the information for underwriting and coverage choices, still believe that collecting such data involves risk. Some plans also believed that it was illegal to ask members for their race; four states -- Maryland, California, New Hampshire and New Jersey -- restrict the gathering and use of racial data. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of RWJF, said that collecting racial data would not "solve the problem" of health care disparities. She added, "But if you're not collecting the data, it's hard for us to see how you're going to fix the problem." AHIP President Karen Ignani said, "Without data, we're not going to be able to reach out and get people with higher risk into the right programs" (Winslow, Wall Street Journal, 6/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.