Creating the Business Case for Achieving Health Equity

J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Jul;31(7):792-6. doi: 10.1007/s11606-016-3604-7. Epub 2016 Feb 16.


Health care organizations have increasingly acknowledged the presence of health care disparities across race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, but significantly fewer have made health equity for diverse patients a true priority. Lack of financial incentives is a major barrier to achieving health equity. To create a business case for equity, governmental and private payors can: 1) Require health care organizations to report clinical performance data stratified by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. 2) Incentivize preventive care and primary care. Implement more aggressive shared savings plans, update physician relative value unit fee schedules, and encourage partnerships across clinical and non-clinical sectors. 3) Incentivize the reduction of health disparities with equity accountability measures in payment programs. 4) Align equity accountability measures across public and private payors. 5) Assist safety-net organizations. Provide adequate Medicaid reimbursement, risk-adjust clinical performance scores for sociodemographic characteristics of patients, provide support for quality improvement efforts, and calibrate cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments to the pace of health insurance expansion. 6) Conduct demonstration projects to test payment and delivery system reform interventions to reduce disparities. Commitment to social justice is essential to achieve health equity, but insufficient without a strong business case that makes interventions financially feasible.

Keywords: business case; disparities; equity; payment; reimbursement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Health Equity / economics*
  • Health Expenditures
  • Health Policy
  • Healthcare Disparities / economics*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health
  • Medicaid
  • Quality of Health Care / economics*
  • Social Class
  • United States