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CMS mapping tool tracks Medicare disparities

March 18, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Map 1: Diabetes rates, all ages. Ranges from <17% (lightest) to 29+% (darkest). Source: CMS MMD

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of Minority Affairs has released an interactive map to help federal and state healthcare services agencies understand chronic disease disparities across ethnic, racial and geographic lines. Racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases, and are more likely to experience difficulty accessing high quality of care than other individuals, the agency says, and being able to identify where more service intervention or outreach may be needed is key to reducing chronic disease rates overall.

The Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool currently includes nine health outcome measures with information on up to 18 specific chronic conditions and allows users to sort data by race, ethnicity, age, gender and other categories. Outcomes can be compared across a state, region or ethnic group, among other benchmarking , including how and where the most Medicare funds are spent.

Map 2: Alzheimer's disease rates, ranging from <5% (lightest) to 9+% (darkest). Source: CMS MMD

The national map makes one thing clear: No state is above ethnic disparities. In fact, many states run the gamut of disparity rates, with great variances even between neighboring counties. A single state may have vastly divergent diabetes rates (Map 1), while certain regions may experience far higher Alzheimer's disease rates than other regions (Map 2).

“Our commitment to health equity begins with properly measuring the care people get and having an honest dialogue on how and where we need to improve,” said Andy Slavitt, CMS Acting Administrator, in an agency announcement about the release.