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Do Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Quality and Patient Experience within Medicare Plans Generalize across Measures and Racial/Ethnic Groups?

Keywords: Medicare; disparities; CAHPS ; HEDIS ; race/ethnicity.

Objective: To examine how similar racial/ethnic disparities in clinical quality (Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set [HEDIS]) and patient experience (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems [CAHPS]) measures are for different measures within Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.

Data Sources/Study Setting: 5.7 million/492,495 MA beneficiaries with 2008–2009 HEDIS/CAHPS data.

Study Design: Binomial (HEDIS) and linear (CAHPS) hierarchical mixed models generated contract estimates for HEDIS/CAHPS measures for Hispanics, blacks, Asian-Pacific Islanders, and whites. We examine the correlation of within-plan disparities for HEDIS and CAHPS measures across measures.

Principal Findings: Plans with disparities for a given minority group (vs. whites) for a particular measure have a moderate tendency for similar disparities for other measures of the same type (mean r = 0.51/.21 and 53/34 percent positive and statistically significant for CAHPS/HEDIS). This pattern holds to a lesser extent for correlations of CAHPS disparities and HEDIS disparities (mean r = 0.05/0.14/0.23 and 4.4/5.6/4.4 percent) positive and statistically significant for blacks/Hispanics/API.

Conclusions: Similarities in CAHPS and HEDIS disparities across measures might reflect common structural factors, such as language services or provider incentives, affecting several measures simultaneously. Health plan structural changes might reduce disparities across multiple measures.

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