Health equity is both an outcome and process. Health equity happens when everyone has equal opportunity to be as healthy as they can be. No one's race, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography or preferred language should negatively affect their health care. Health equity work includes removing obstacles to health care access and positive health outcomes.
The Department embraces this definition, and with the direction of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), we are working to advance health equity by designing, implementing, and operationalizing policies and programs that support health for all the people served by our programs, eliminating avoidable differences in health outcomes experienced by people who are disadvantaged or underserved, and providing the care and support that our members need to thrive.
Emphasis on Health Inequities
Health inequities are defined as systemic differences in the health status of different population groups. The Department needs accurate and up-to-date data to develop appropriate action steps. Strengthening Department data collection is the driving force of our health equity plan (also in Spanish). Understanding that the data the Department collects is only as good as the demographics on the Health First Colorado application, the Department is planning to make recommendations to modify Health First Colorado applications to include more data on age, gender, race, ethnicity, and language, in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services. It is paramount that we articulate to our members the why and purpose behind requiring specific personal information. Such data would help bolster communication between agencies, partners, hospitals, and clinics as well as eliminate rework and enable a positive impact on health outcomes.
Equitable Access and Outcomes for our Members
The Department’s health equity plan (also in Spanish) is comprehensive and culturally-responsive, and centers on health equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (HEDIA) to drive down disparities and improve access for all members. Outcomes below are aligned with CMS’ health equity pillars.
- Critical: Develop and identify ways to actualize coordinated care for person-centered outcomes
- Stratify data collection and align with quality of care and payment structures
- Define clear, actionable steps to address social determinants of health (SDOH)
- Develop strong partnerships with community members from ideation to implementation
- Focus on safety net provider engagement, accountability and affordability (tribal, rural, frontier, and urban)
- Identify and leverage targeted interventions based upon health disparity data among vulnerable and marginalized members and manage risk
- Ensuring Coloradans maintain continuity of health coverage if they transition from Health First Colorado to other benefits or forms of coverage when the public health emergency ends
- Strengthening and stabilizing the health care workforce
- Ensuring members, including those with complex conditions and complicated life situations, have access to needed behavioral health services
- Measure success in health outcomes and cost savings
- Add health equity reports to vendor contracts
- Planning and implementation of ACC Phase III (Empowered Members / Member Centricity)
- Update our standards to be reflective of growing progress, all hands-on-deck approach
Decision-making through the Health Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (HEDIA) Lens and Framework
Governor Jared Polis’ landmark Executive Order (EO) D 2020 175 empowered state departments to prioritize the operationalization of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) efforts. Our Department has made intentional and strategic changes to embed equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) into the fabric of our organization. We updated our Department mission statement to include health equity:
Improving health care equity and outcomes for the people we serve while driving value and affordability for Colorado and Coloradans.
In addition to our mission statement, our Department added a sixth strategic priority to incorporate EDIA: alongside our existing Department priorities of Member Health, Care Access, Operational Excellence & Customer Service, Medicaid Cost Control, and Affordability Leadership, we added this sixth priority: Employee Engagement & Satisfaction. This sixth priority includes investments in EDIA.
Senate Bill 21-181 Strategic Plan Address Health Disparities
The Department, in coordination and collaboration with the Health Equity Commission (HEC), led by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) and the Office of Health Equity (OHE), is developing a health equity strategic plan to address health disparities. The Department has created a robust and comprehensive health equity plan (also in Spanish) that partners with, and works towards, eliminating health disparities and improving health outcomes for marginalized, underrepresented, and underserved communities outlined in protective classes (race, class, age, sexual orientation, place of origin, ability, and gender) who are enrolled in Health First Colorado and Child Health Plus (CHP+) programs. The Department partnered with the Governor’s Office and CDPHE to pass Senate Bill 21-181, which creates a shared health equity strategic plan across state agencies and provides funding and staff to implement it.
- Health Equity Plan (also available in Spanish)
- Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Universal Policy
- Office of Health Equity
- Colorado Equity Alliance
Statewide Health Equity Task Force
- Statewide effort to identify and address health disparities that result in disproportionate health inequities
- Provide specific recommendations to the Department and engage in health equity-related initiatives and policy.
- Joint efforts in information sharing, learning opportunities, data collection, and gap analysis in regional and statewide disparities, to enhance accountability, affordability and action
- Share findings and/or expertise with other key entities such as MEAC, MAC, PIAC and ACC Learning Collaborative