NCQA Launches Equity Accountability to Eliminate Stubborn Health Disparities

November 16, 2021 · Matt Brock

NCQA has always championed measurement and accountability as the keys to improving health care. Now, we’re turning to those tried and true principles to tackle one of healthcare’s most persistent problems–inequitable care.

NCQA has adjusted and upgraded its Multi-Cultural Health Distinction to a full-fledged Health Equity Accreditation program that provides the foundational framework for health organizations to improve. This robust framework is designed to assist organizations to identify and close individual care gaps.  And it’s not just for health insurance plans, but also health systems and other care delivery organizations.

Equity Elusive

“As the nation’s leading health care performance measurement and quality organization, we know that high-quality care is equitable care,” said Margaret E. O’Kane, NCQA President. “Every individual deserves the best quality treatment regardless of racial, socioeconomic, gender, sexual orientation or cultural characteristics.”

There is a clear and historic need. Racial disparities cost the U.S. an estimated $93B in excess medical costs and $42B in lost productivity per year, as well as economic losses due to premature deaths. In a report from Kaiser Family Foundation, though relatively few Medicare beneficiaries overall report problems with access to care, a larger share of Black and Hispanic beneficiaries report trouble getting needed care than White beneficiaries. People of color also disproportionately have a higher burden of chronic disease – the CDC reports 21.5 percent of Hispanics aged 20 and over have diabetes compared to 13 percent of white people.

Our Equity Assist

NCQA’s newly minted Health Equity Accreditation program offers a framework to assist health plans, health systems and other care organizations to:

  • Assess where care disparities may exist and work to eliminate gaps.
  • Improve quality, monitor improvement and standardize processes.
  • Deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
  • Align staff, leadership and their supporting organizations.
  • Strengthen organizations’ appeal for employer and government contract partnerships.

The Health Equity Accreditation Program is an expansion and evolution of our prior Multicultural Health Distinction program already championed by several insurance plans and state governments. Simply stated, it holds organizations accountable to prove they evaluate, benchmark and elevate the health of all the populations they serve.

Health Equity Accreditation is available now for insurance plans, health systems and other care delivery organizations. Evaluations (surveys) begin in July of 2022.

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