Health Insurance Plans Collecting More Data on Race, Ethnicity, and Language

Surveys of Health Insurance Plans' Collection of Race, Ethnicity, and Language Data to Help Address Gaps in Care

Field of Work: Collecting data on the race, ethnicity, and language to improve quality of care.

Problem Synopsis: To help address evident disparities in quality of health care among minorities, the Institute of Medicine in 2003 recommended that health plans collect and report data on members' race and ethnicity.

Synopsis of the Work: The research team at America's Health Insurance Plans fielded four national surveys over seven years (between 2003 to 2011), of between 245 and 302 health insurance entities (including Medicare and Medicaid plans), to assess trends in their collection and use of data on the race, ethnicity, and language of their enrollees. Researchers also conducted interviews and held an expert panel meeting with health plan decision-makers and national thought leaders to identify challenges and make recommendations regarding the collection of such data.

Key Findings: By 2010, 78.7 percent of health plans were collecting race and ethnicity data of their members, up from 49.6 percent of plans in 2003. Also, by 2010, 84.3 percent of health plans were collecting language data of their members, up from 74 percent in 2008 and 57.3 percent in 2003.

Most plans indicated they were working with external partners—primarily nonprofit community groups—to improve data collection on race, ethnicity, and language and to reduce gaps in care.