A new free tool from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services enables providers, insurers, community organizations, local public health departments and other stakeholders to better understand geographic healthcare disparities among Medicare beneficiaries at the county level.

The Mapping Medicare Disparities Tool is designed to aid in targeting certain populations and regions for treatment and disease management interventions. The tool enables querying of the data and downloading of subsequent available data results.

Cara James
Cara James

“Users can identify regions and populations where Medicare outcomes differ from state or national averages, thereby supporting the development of targeted strategies and programs to eliminate disparities that exist between different populations,” according to extensive guidance that comes with the tool, available here.

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Offering data only at the county level does have limitations, acknowledges Cara James, director of the CMS Office of Minority Health, but there’s often not enough data reported to drill down deeper than that.

Still, the tool enables analysis of the prevalence of specific diseases and chronic conditions among Medicare beneficiaries. Drill-down data reflects 18 chronic conditions, end stage renal disease, or a disability; hospital and ED utilization, hospitalization rates, preventable hospitalizations, readmissions, mortality rates, and the sorting of populations by gender, age, race, ethnicity, condition and dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid.

For communities to achieve health equity, they must start with better understanding health disparities, James says. “So, take a look and drill down, then pick one area with the greatest disparity and focus on tackling those problems. That’s a good place to start.”

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