CMS Announces Award for Improving Accessibility of Medical Offices and Services for People with Disabilities

February 7, 2019

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced the CMS Health Equity Awards on January 31 to celebrate organizations "who are closing gaps in health care quality, access, and outcomes among minorities and other underserved populations."

Centene Corporation was honored for their "commitment to make sweeping accessibility improvements to their facilities." Centene Corporation, a Fortune 100 Company, is a diversified, multi-national healthcare enterprise that provides a portfolio of services to government sponsored and commercial programs, focusing on under-insured and uninsured individuals. Informed in part by the CMS issue brief, Increasing the Physical Accessibility of Healthcare Facilities, Centene recognized the need to address the significant barriers to access that individuals with physical accessibility challenges face when trying to get needed health care. 

ACL is committed to promoting accessible durable medical equipment and health care access initiatives. ACL-funded Centers for Independent Living played a large part in conducting the more than 2,500 onsite Accessibility Site Reviews (described below) that are integral to this initiative. 

As part of its ongoing commitment to provide equal access to quality healthcare and services, Centene announced in 2018 that it would partner with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) on an initiative to increase the accessibility of provider medical offices and services for people with disabilities. The Provider Accessibility Initiative (PAI) kicked off with the “Barrier Removal Fund” (BRF) in three pilot states, Illinois, Texas, and Ohio. The goal of the initiative is to provide equal access to quality health care and services that are physically and programmatically accessible for its members with disabilities and their companions by increasing the percentage of Centene providers that meet minimum and federal state disability access standards.

To date, 52 health care providers in Illinois, Texas, and Ohio received grants from the Centene Barrier Removal Fund. The grantees range in size, location, and specialty and include both physical and programmatic access improvements. In addition, more than 2,500 onsite Accessibility Site Reviews have been conducted across California, Illinois, Texas, and Ohio with the help of ACL-funded Centers for Independent Living.

As a result of these efforts, more than 36,000 of Centene’s members now have improved access to their provider’s office. In 2019, Centene plans to roll out this initiative in Florida, Kansas, and New Mexico, and continue its efforts to develop data collection processes and directory improvements that can be scaled across states.

Background on the CMS Health Equity Awards: CMS recognizes that all beneficiaries should be able to achieve their highest level in care and works to ensure that disparities in health care quality and access are eliminated. Starting in 2018, CMS began recognizing organizations demonstrating a similar commitment to health equity by reducing disparities among the CMS beneficiaries they serve, particularly among racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, and those living in rural areas.

CMS looks forward to recognizing another organization who can demonstrate results. The successful organization is reducing disparities in health care quality, access, or outcomes for a priority population, including: racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, or individuals living in rural areas. Learn more.

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Last modified on 02/07/2019

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