South Carolina Addresses Disparities Through Multicultural Health Care Distinction

January 12, 2021 · Amy Maciejowski

The new year will bring some new goals for health plans in the state of South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS), which oversees the Medicaid program, is prioritizing health equity for all Medicaid beneficiaries. South Carolina became the second state in the country to require Medicaid plans to obtain NCQA’s Multicultural Health Care Distinction.

“During this unprecedented time in healthcare worldwide, it has been important to South Carolina to keep our Quality Agenda at the forefront,” said Maudra Brown from the Division of Quality and Health Outcomes at SCDHHS.  Quality Improvement goals and standards addressing health disparities have always been a supported strategy for the agency, and including the Distinction in Multicultural Health Care (MHC) will continue and strengthen this focus well into the future.”

The Multicultural Health Care Distinction is the country’s premier evaluation program to address disparities. The standards help health plans understand the makeup of their population; it requires the collection of race/ethnicity and language data, which gives health plans a starting point to address disparities and expand access to quality care. The evaluation standards closely align with National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards and helps states, plans and providers understand if there are gaps for their patients in access, services and/or language.

Proof is in the Data

South Carolina joins an esteemed group of states, organizations and researchers that have already seen positive results in using NCQA Multicultural Health Care Distinction as a foundation for addressing disparities.

Pennsylvania was the first state to require their plans achieve NCQA Multicultural Health Care Distinction—and they’ve already noticed an astounding difference. Plans that have obtained the Distinction have shown a 5.65 versus 2.15 percentage point improvement for the African American population relative to the white population for the “Controlling High Blood Pressure” measure.

Additionally, the Health Management Associates (HMA)  released a report on how Multicultural Health Care Distinction promotes structural impacts and achievement in health equity.

NCQA looks forward to supporting South Carolina as they require this Distinction and use it as a tool to address health equity within their state quality priorities.


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