NCQA Launches equity accountability to eliminate stubborn health disparities

Nov. 22, 2021

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has announced its intent to use its experience evaluating healthcare quality and performance to accelerate improvement with one of the healthcare system’s most persistent problems—inequitable care. According to an NCQA press release, the committee’s new Health Equity Accreditation program sets a robust framework for organizations to identify and close individual care gaps, and as a result, collectively improve health equity nationwide.

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.

NCQA’s new 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 NCQA’s prior Multicultural Health Distinction program already championed by several insurance plans and state governments. The program holds organizations accountable to prove they evaluate and elevate the health of all the populations they serve.

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

NCQA press release