Congressman Elijah E. Cummings
Proudly Representing Maryland's 7th District

August 18, 2005

Devika Koppikar
(202) 225-4741 or (202) 225-4025
Trudy Perkins
(410) 685-9199 or (202) 225-4741
Mike Christianson
(410) 685-9199 or (202) 225-9876

Congressman Cummings Calls for Action On Health Care Disparities in Medicare

Washington, DC -- Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take immediate action to close the disparities that have been uncovered in Medicare-funded health care provided to African Americans.

These disparities were documented in several articles that appeared in today's New England Journal of Medicine. In the article entitled "Racial Trends in the Use of Major Procedures Among the Elderly," researchers reported that a review of patients enrolled in Medicare from 1992 to 2001 revealed that the disparity in the provision of 5 of 9 major surgical procedures had, in the authors' words, "increased significantly" during the decade covered by the study. Meanwhile, the disparity had "narrowed significantly" for only one of the procedures studied.

The authors noted that "For the decade of the 1990s, we found no evidence, either nationally or locally, that efforts to eliminate racial disparities in the use of high-cost surgical procedures were successful."

In a letter to CMS Administrator Dr. Mark B. McClellan, Congressman Cummings wrote, "While it has long been known that African Americans and other minorities have lower rates of private insurance than whites and that this significantly reduces their access to health care, the finding that disparities in care exist even when a patient's care is being provided by a government-funded program demands that action be taken immediately to end this discrimination."

Congressman Cummings continued, "The enactment of immediate changes in the oversight of the Medicare system is literally a matter of life and death for the millions of elderly African Americans who depend on Medicare for their health care."

Congressman Cummings called on Administrator McClellan to account for these findings and explain what steps he intended to take to eliminate bias in Medicare-funded healthcare.

Specifically, Congressman Cummings asked Administrator McClellan what steps he will take to immediately increase the oversight of health care providers participating in this system to ensure that they are not allowed to dispense care in a racially biased manner. He also inquired about what will be done to punish those who continue to exhibit bias in the provision of care.

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