Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts plans to incorporate equity measures into its payment models to address racial disparities identified through its recent health equity analysis.

As part of its commitment to address health inequities and racial justice, the health insurer announced it will pay clinicians more money if they improve quality of care for people of color. The company plans to incorporate the new equity measures into its payment models starting in 2023.

"We're committed to working collaboratively with the medical community to identify the underlying causes of racial inequities and to find ways to close these gaps," said Sandhya Rao, M.D., chief medical officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts in the announcement. "We know clinicians can't do this alone–we have a shared responsibility to address and eliminate inequities, and our collective efforts will ultimately improve health care for all our members, across every racial and ethnic group."

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The announcement comes shortly after the Massachusetts health insurer released findings from its2021 Health Equity Report. The analysis, which included 2019 data for more than 1.3 million Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts members, examined disparities in quality of care and service among children and adults across racial and ethnic groups. The data indicated lower-quality care for Black, Asian, and Hispanic members in most of the areas measured.

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Key findings from the Health Equity Report include:

  • Asian (67 percent), Black (63.8 percent), and Hispanic (65.4 percent) members were less likely to receive screenings for colorectal cancer than white members
  • The rates of life-threatening complications during childbirth among Black members (2.8 percent) were more than twice that of white members (1.2 percent)
  • The rates of adolescents who had at least one comprehensive well-care visit were lower for Black (68.9 percent) and Hispanic (70.3 percent) members than white members (80.2 percent)
  • Black and Hispanic members were about 15 to 20 percent less likely to receive recommended anti-depressant medication management than white members

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts intends to publish updated report results each year. The new payment model is one of several steps the company has taken to improve its efforts in addressing health inequities and racial justice. Recently, the company launched an in-house Spanish-language member call-center and made its website available in five languages, supported statewide efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity, and awarded $350,000 racial equity and justice grants to support Black, Indigenous, People of Color-led nonprofit organizations.