Mapping Medicare Disparities

By: Cara V. James, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

In 2014, two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries had multiple chronic conditions and accounted for 94 percent of Medicare spending.1 Racial and ethnic minorities experience disproportionately higher rates of disease, inferior quality of care, and reduced access to care as compared to their white counterparts.2 Understanding disparities and their geographic variations is important to inform policy decisions and to identify populations and localities to target for interventions.

As health care delivery system reform continues, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has an important opportunity and a critical role to play in promoting health equity.  In September 2015, the CMS Office of Minority Health (OMH) released the first CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare. In March 2016, CMS OMH launched a newly developed interactive tool to increase understanding of geographic disparities in chronic disease among Medicare beneficiaries.  The Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool presents health-related measures from Medicare claims by sex, age, dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid, race and ethnicity, and state and county. It provides users with a quick and easy way to identify areas with large numbers of vulnerable populations to target interventions that address racial and ethnic disparities. The MMD Tool is expected to help government agencies, policymakers, researchers, community-based organizations, health providers, quality improvement organizations, and the general public analyze chronic disease disparities, identifying how a region or population may differ from the state or national average.

Mapping Tool Map

Please, take a moment to explore the MMD Tool.  Investigate what health care disparities look like in your county or state, then pick a priority and develop a plan that could be used to help provide better care for every individual in the United States.

  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Chronic Conditions among Medicare Beneficiaries, Chartbook, 2014 edition. Baltimore, MD: CMS, 2014.
  2. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), 2014 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, Publication No. 15-0007. Rockville, MD: AHRQ, May 2015.

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