CPEHN commends Covered California’s Board of Directors for voting on April 7, 2016 to significantly improve the quality of health care provided to all Californians. Covered California’s decision to take measurable steps to reduce health disparities puts them in the vanguard of organizations creating concrete changes for underserved communities.

“We are raising the bar not just for California but for the nation.”
 – Peter Lee, Executive Director of Covered California.


This historic new initiative places a priority on reducing health disparities with important new requirements on health care plans, and includes the following steps:

  1. Providing incentives to health plans that demonstrate yearly improvements in reducing disparities for all their members in documented target areas such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and mental health. This is critical because chronic diseases disproportionately impact communities of color. For example, Latinos and African Americans in California are twice as likely to be diagnosed with and to die from type 2 diabetes.[i]
  2. Requiring health plans to increase the percentage of self-reported demographic data of their Covered California membership annually with a goal of 80% by the end of 2019. Self-reported race and ethnicity is considered the “gold” standard in demographic data collection and is endorsed by national experts from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In future years, Covered California will work with plans to improve the collection of data on additional demographic factors, such as income, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Covered California will use these data to track, trend and improve health care disparities in our state.
  3. Expanding the types of data used to identify disparities by including innovative metrics such as community level hospital discharge data, which will help identify gaps in preventive outpatient care. These gaps in care, if not properly identified, can lead to costly, avoidable hospitalizations. For example, African-Americans are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized for preventable conditions including diabetes, asthma and heart disease. Many of these outcomes can be avoided with better quality, preventive outpatient care.
“I want to echo how delighted I am in terms of the ambitious steps being outlined. It is exactly these types of bold and ambitious steps that we need in California to really make an impact on reducing the health disparities that are burdening many in our communities.”
 – Covered California Board Member Genoveva Islas

These new requirements were the culmination of six months of stakeholder discussions led by Covered California’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lance Lang. Leading up to the hearing, CPEHN worked with several partners including the Asian Law Alliance, California Black Health Network, Consumers Union, Health Access, Latino Community for a Health California, SEIU California, Having our Say Coalition and the Western Center of Law & Poverty to create a joint sign-on letter and provided public testimony in favor of the proposed measures.

“Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases which are the leading cause of death in the U.S. and the largest contributor to health care costs.”
 – Cary Sanders, CPEHN’s Director of Policy Analysis

CPEHN is privileged to have represented and supported the voice of California’s underserved communities throughout the Board’s decision-making process. The new reforms implemented by Covered California will help thousands live healthier lives. Covered California has taken a bold step forward in reducing the unacceptable historic inequities in our state. It is our hope that agencies throughout the nation will follow their example. Watch the hearing here

CPEHN is a statewide multicultural health advocacy organization dedicated to advancing health equity for communities of color and other vulnerable communities in California. For more information on these initiatives and to view the Board meeting discussion visit CPEHN’s website at: www.cpehn.org.


[i] Californians with the Top Chronic Conditions: 11 Million and Counting,” California Health Care Almanac 2015. California Health Care Foundation, April 2015.

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