HCFA to Plans: Don't Request Ethnicity Info


HCFA has issued a policy letter warning Medicare managed care plans that they can collect race and ethnicity data from beneficiaries only on a voluntary basis — and only from beneficiaries already enrolled in plans.

If managed care plans force potential beneficiaries to supply this information, they'll open themselves to charges of "health screening." Health screening of applicants — other than those with end-stage renal disease or already in hospice care — is specifically prohibited under Medicare.

In its letter, HCFA did acknowledge that compiling such ethnic data from enrollees "is a useful tool for health plans seeking to prevent the occurrence of diseases in certain demographic groups and to undertake health education on and treatment of diseases that are more prevalent in some groups."

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