Pennsylvania overturns payer ban on collection of race, ethnicity data from members 

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has ended a 1969 ban on payers collecting race and ethnicity data from members.

The move will allow payers to ask applicants to voluntarily provide race and ethnicity data on insurance applications to promote health equity, according to an April 8 news release.

"In the 50 years since the 1969 issuance, society has grappled with racial and ethnic tensions, and has come to the current decade recognizing that inequities can only be addressed if they are adequately identified. To identify those issues and measure improvement in addressing them, data is necessary," the department said in its new policy filing.

The data collection will be allowed within the context of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion. Questions about "race or color" are permitted only if they promote health equity. 

According to the department, payers may find it necessary to assure applicants about the payer's nondiscriminatory intentions for the data collection.  

Payers should be prepared to tell applicants:

  • Why the data is being requested
  • How it will support efforts to provide equitable care
  • How the data will be maintained as private
  • That disclosure of demographic data is:
    • Voluntary, with "prefer to not answer" and "other" options available for all demographic questions.
    • Based on self-identification

In 2019, fewer than 25 percent of commercial health plans had race data for even half their members.

CMS has also recommended requiring payers to report race and ethnicity data to address health equity in its proposed notice of benefit and payment parameters for 2023.

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