WASHINGTON – Today, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) in partnership with the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) is proud to release recommendations for improving and standardizing data collection methods around race, ethnicity, and language (REL) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to reduce health disparities and increase access to higher-quality care for underserved populations.
Significant inequities exist throughout the U.S. health care system, resulting in preventable negative health outcomes for historically marginalized racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and LGBTQ+ communities. The lack of comprehensive data as well as outdated standards for collecting information are contributing factors to the growing health equity gap.
“Data is more than numbers—it represents people. Our data must be as diverse and inclusive as our nation’s population,” said BCBSA President and CEO Kim Keck. “Standardized, precise data provides opportunities for insurers, health care providers and patient advocates to design and implement targeted health solutions to better meet the needs of disproportionately impacted communities. Through the adoption of comprehensive data collection standards, we can address health inequities head on and create a better system of health for all Americans.”
In 1977, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) introduced Statistical Policy Directive No. 15 that established a set of minimum standards to ensure the federal government’s ability to compare information and data across federal agencies, as well as document the effectiveness of federal programs in serving the diverse populations. This directive was last updated in 1997 to encourage further standards for maintaining, collecting and presenting data on race and ethnicity. Now almost 30 years later, OMB is initiating a formal review to revise the directive by the summer of 2024.
BCBSA and NMQF recommend the following solutions be included in the updated directive:
- Clear and consistent requirements for the collection of REL and SOGI data that include a minimum standard for disaggregated race/ethnicity collection and are consistent with industry interoperability standards.
- OMB should incorporate the current data standards put forth by the DHHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation/Office of Minority Health into Directive No. 15 and require that these be the minimum standard categories for collecting disaggregated REL data.
- OMB should intentionally and proactively elicit and accept additional input from diverse stakeholders regarding SOGI data collection and utilization into the Directive No. 15 update.
- OMB should enforce non-voluntary, uniform and universal adoption of the updated OMB Directive No. 15 standards upon release in 2024 for all government agencies, and all private sector health care stakeholders including payers and providers.
“High-quality, reliable data are essential to understanding where and how health disparities arise,” said NMQF President and CEO Dr. Gary A. Puckrein. “Sufficiently collecting and exchanging data requires a multi-stakeholder approach and we look forward to working with players in the public and private sectors to establish a robust set of data standards and ultimately reduce health equities in the United States.”
ABOUT NATIONAL MINORITY QUALITY FORUM
The National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. The mission of NMQF is to reduce patient risk by assuring optimal care for all. NMQF’s vision is an American health services research, delivery and financing system whose operating principle is to reduce patient risk for amenable morbidity and mortality while improving quality of life. For more information, please visit www.nmqf.org.