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CMS Health Equity Awards

Quality Conference 2019 Awardees Spotlight

CMS Health Equity Awards

On January 31st, 2019, CMS announced the 2019 CMS Equity Award winners at the CMS Quality Conference. We are proud to recognize two organizations - HealthPartners and Centene Corporation - who are closing gaps in health care quality, access, and outcomes among minorities and other underserved populations.

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. 

2019 CMS Health Equity Award

At the 2019 CMS Quality Conference, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) presented the 2019 CMS Health Equity Award to recognize organizations that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to health equity by reducing disparities among minority and other underserved populations. The 2019 winners are HealthPartners, for their organization-wide activities to achieve health equity, and Centene Corporation, for their commitment to make sweeping accessibility improvements to their facilities.


HealthPartners is a consumer-governed health care organization covering 1.8 million members nationwide and serving 1.2 million patients across six states through more than 90 medical, dental, and hospital locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Their strategic focus on health equity spread organization-wide and includes collecting data to eliminate disparities in care, supporting language access, partnering with communities, and building an organizational understanding of equity, diversity, inclusion, and bias. 

HealthPartners’ organization-wide approach helped them reduce health disparities in the clinic, health plan, and hospital settings. Through the implementation of numerous culturally tailored initiatives for racial and ethnic minorities and individuals with limited English proficiency, HealthPartners was able to successfully close the colorectal screening gap between white and racial and ethnic minority patients by one-third, from 11.5% to 7.6% in one year; shrink the disparity in anti-depression medication compliance between whites and racial and ethnic minorities by one-third, from 18.7% to 12.8% over three years; and nearly eliminate the gap in mental health length of stay between patients with limited English proficiency and those who prefer to communicate in English in one year.

Centene Corporation

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. 

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, over 2,500 onsite Accessibility Site Reviews have been conducted across California, Illinois, Texas and Ohio. As a result of these efforts, over 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.

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