Collection of Race, Ethnicity, Language (REL) Data in Medicaid Applications: A 50-state Review of the Current Landscape
Medicaid is a vital source of health insurance coverage for low-income children, adults, and individuals with disabilities; however, many individuals in Medicaid experience significant health disparities. Collecting and monitoring data on disparities by race, ethnicity, and language is an essential first step in any effort to reduce health disparities and address health equity. Today, all state Medicaid agencies collect self-reported data on race, ethnicity, and language (REL) from applicants during the eligibility and enrollment process. However, the type and granularity of information collected varies considerably, and many states continue to face longstanding and persistent challenges in collecting complete, accurate, and consistent data on REL.
This issue brief documents how states are collecting information about race, ethnicity, and language on their Medicaid applications. The information presented here draws from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center’s (SHADAC’s) review of 50 states’ paper Medicaid applications and 33 states’ online Medicaid applications. For this resource, the authors provide an overview of REL data collection standards and examine state Medicaid application’s question structure, answer options, and instructional language. They also provide an overview of the frequency of different iterations of questions and responses and provide state examples to illustrate common and unique data collection practices. Although other design factors, such as an application’s overall length, readability, or design layout undoubtedly impact user experience (and whether or not an applicant provides complete information), the authors did not assess applicants’ user experience in this report.
Medicaid enrollment has increased by over 10 million (or 15 percent) from February 2020 through February 2021 across all states since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. States have a clear imperative to center health equity as they plan for the end of the public health emergency (PHE) given that Black, Latino/a, and other people of color are most at risk of coverage loss. This expert perspective highlights strategies states can implement to ensure that the end of the PHE does not exacerbate already widespread racial and ethnic disparities in our health care system.
COVID-19 vaccines are now widely accessible in the United States and free to everyone over the age of 12. Given the spread of the Delta variant, there is an urgent need to increase vaccination rates, particularly among Medicaid enrollees. States across the country continue to report Medicaid enrollees are getting vaccinated at lower rates than the general population. This expert perspective explores how state Medicaid managed care programs and health plans can work collaboratively to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates for the more than 55 million Medicaid enrollees in comprehensive managed care plans.
Many states are looking to fill gaps in race and ethnicity data for Medicaid and related agencies. Working with the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC) at the University of Minnesota, with support from the State Health and Value Strategies (SHVS) program, New York tested multiple strategies aimed at encouraging applicants to answer the optional race and ethnicity questions. This expert perspective highlights an effort by New York’s official state-based marketplace, NY State of Health, to improve the completeness of race and ethnicity data that applicants share when applying for Medicaid; Child Health Plus, the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Essential Plan, New York’s Basic Health Program (BHP); or Qualified Health Plan (QHP) coverage through its Marketplace.