The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released for the first time a voluntary quality measure set to promote consistent quality measurement within and across state Medicaid home-and community-based services (HCBS) programs.

The inaugural measure set aims to provide insight into the quality of the HCBS programs and enable states to measure and improve health outcomes for people who rely on long-term services and support in Medicaid. CMS said the release of the voluntary measure set is critical to promote health equity among the millions of older adults and people with disabilities who need the services becomes of disabling conditions and chronic illnesses.

“CMS is using ever lever available to protect and expand coverage for all people eligible for Medicaid,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in the announcement. The measures will help provide states with tools to better understand and compare health outcomes across groups who receive home- and community-based services. “The use of consistent quality measures across the country is another step toward reducing health disparities and ensuring that people with disabilities, and older adults enrolled in Medicaid, have access to and receive high-quality services in the community,” she said.

More than seven million people receive HCBS services under Medicaid and Medicaid-funded HCBS accounts for $125 billion annually in state and federal spending, according to CMS. Implementation of the quality measure set will create opportunities for CMS and states to promote more consistent use, within and across states, of nationally standardized quality measures in HCBS programs to promote health equity and reduce disparities in health outcomes among this population.

State Medicaid directors can learn more about the HCBS quality measure set, including the purpose, measure selection criteria, and considerations for implementation, in a 40-page letter released on July 21. CMS said in the announcement that states should use this information to assess and improve quality and outcomes in their HCBS programs.