Blue Cross Blue Shield will reward physicians who reduce racial inequalities in healthcare

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Massachusetts’ largest private health insurer is taking a new approach to addressing disparities in care for people of color.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said it will financially reward doctors who improve care for black, Hispanic and Asian patients. Blue Cross executives say that amid recent racial justice calculations after George Floyd’s murder last year and the pandemic, they want to focus on reducing the differences in care between white patients and patients of color. .

“We are taking these steps to really, intentionally, try to improve equity of care, as this has been a long-standing interest in society,” said Dr. Mark Friedberg, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Senior Vice President of Performance Measurement and Improvement. “We have made equity of care a fourth strategic priority for the company alongside quality, affordability of care and a great customer experience. “

The insurer analyzed 2019 data from more than one million Massachusetts patients and found racial disparities in areas such as colon cancer screening, adolescent checkups and treatment for depression. For example, the analysis found that 69% of black adolescent patients and 70% of Hispanic adolescents went to their doctor for check-ups, compared to 80% of white patients. The data also showed that 64% of black patients had a colonoscopy, compared to 71% of white patients.

“Honestly, it’s a lesson in humility,” Friedberg said. “This means we have a long way to go to improve equity of care. It will take a sustained effort, a significant investment and the partnership of our network of providers and our community partners inside and outside the health system.

Friedberg says details of the financial incentives are still being worked out, but that they would apply to doctors who care for Blue Cross Blue Shield members in Massachusetts and could be implemented by 2023.

Other elements of the insurer’s plan to address fairness provide support and collect data, according to Friedberg. He says the BCBS will work with the Institute for Health Care Improvement to create a forum to share data and best practices.

Friedberg says state officials are working on overhauling MassHealth, the state’s public insurance program. The overhaul would force providers to measure and reduce disparities in care, and link payments to health equity. The state plan requires federal approval.

He hopes other insurers will take similar action.

“Any payer can do what we just did,” Friedberg said. “Any payer anywhere in the country is already calculating their own quality metrics and can produce at a minimum one internal report, and then have the option to publish those reports, to improve the ability of each of us to be jointly responsible for improving the quality of care. for all our populations. “


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