Increasing the ability of the healthcare workforce to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and increasing physical accessibility of healthcare facilities are two of the six priorities outlined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in its first plan to address health inequity in Medicare. The CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare (PDF) aims to reduce health disparities in four years.

“As we strive to create a healthcare system that provides better care, spends dollars more wisely and creates healthier people, CMS is committed to achieving equity for minority and other underserved populations and eliminating health disparities among Medicare beneficiaries,” Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of CMS, said in a statement.

The plan, released through the CMS Office of Minority Health, focuses on Medicare populations that experience disproportionately high burdens of disease, lower quality of care and barriers accessing care. These populations include racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, people with disabilities, and those living in rural areas.

The four additional priority areas identified in the plan:

  • Expand the collection, reporting and analysis of standardized data.
  • Evaluate disparities’ impacts and integrate equity solutions across CMS programs.
  • Develop and disseminate promising approaches to reduce health disparities.
  • Improve communication and language access for individuals with limited English proficiency and persons with disabilities.

“The CMS Equity Plan for Medicare will help to ensure that as we work towards better care, smarter spending, and healthier people we also continue to work to achieve health equity in Medicare,” Cara James, director of the CMS Office of Minority Health, said in a statement. “We know that in order to achieve the goals of the plan, we need to work with many stakeholders, and we hope that as we start to implement the activities in the plan, we will see a number of them join us on the path to equity.”