By Kelsey Waddill
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has awarded Centene the Innovation Award for Health Equity for the company’s Health Equity Improvement model.
“Advancing health equity has a real and positive impact on the health of our members across the country,” said senior vice president and chief quality officer for Centene, Sarah Bezeredi.
“We are honored to have Centene recognized for implementing these leading strategies that continue to improve the value of our high-quality, affordable care, and we remain committed to addressing these challenges for all our members and communities.”
At its core, the model uses qualitative and quantitative data to target certain health equity gaps. Centene engaged communities and activated community coalitions in order to empower its strategy. The company’s approach included carefully selecting leaders who would help create and promote the model as well as soliciting community feedback.
In Arizona, Centene sent HbA1c at-home testing kits, which became a common method of chronic disease prevention during the pandemic. The kits were outfitted with a range of delivery modalities to cover the spectrum of members’ needs. Members also received telehealth and telemonitoring tools. The payer incentivized compliance with certain diabetes care measures.
The model tackled patient education in addition to delivering access to care interventions. Centene mailed qualifying members resources about the HbA1c test and comprehensive diabetes care measures.
The payer tracked progress using its Health Equity Dashboard, which leverages HEDIS data and other social determinants of health and demographic data to assess care disparities.
“By using a data-driven process, we are identifying disparity reduction opportunities and tracking performance and success year-over-year,” Bezeredi added.
“This informs our efforts and strategies for creating community-specific training, outreach, and social determinants of health (SDOH) integration interventions so we can serve our communities, members, and providers with the highest quality of equitable care.”
As a result of this model, Centene saw its colorectal screening rates increase among American Indian and Alaska Native membership populations in Arizona, immunizations rise among Latino children in Nevada, and maternal health outcomes improve in African American and Black member populations in California.
In Arizona specifically, the payer’s Health Equity Improvement model decreased the care disparity gap in HbA1c testing for the Native American and Alaska Native member population to less than 10 per cent compared to the White membership population.
With these outcomes as evidence for the model’s value, the company indicated that it will expand the model in the future.
The NCQA Innovation Awards look for characteristics such as the scalability of a model, sustainability as a long-term solution, and differentiation. The organization also evaluates the model’s outcomes, including results related to both cost and quality. Competitors also have to be able to prove the added value for payers, providers, or patients.
Only NCQA accredited institutions can compete for the awards, but the model does not have to be led by an NCQA-accredited institution in order to qualify.
For the 2021 NCQA Innovation Awards, Centene was joined by Alliance Medical Ministry, which NCQA recognized for its work integrating social determinants of health data into care. The third awardee was CenCal Health, a non-profit community-based health care organization that launched a patient education program about HPV vaccines.
Centene has also been ranked among the top 25 employers in the US for the pandemic-related flexibilities it offered Centene employees, according to Forbes and JustCapital.
The NCQA Innovation Award came shortly after Centene finalized its acquisition of the behavioral healthcare platform Magellan Health. The company made the move to improve access to care for behavioral healthcare among Medicaid and Medicare members.
In addition to its efforts to improve HbA1c testing health equity in Arizona, the payer also sought to improve access to serious mental healthcare in the state by expanding its Medicaid coverage for these services.