Zambrana, Ruth Enid and Molnar, Christine and Munoz, Helen Baras and Lopez, Debbie Salas (2004) Cultural competency as it intersects with racial/ethnic, linguistic, and class disparities in managed healthcare organizations. The American journal of managed care, 10 Spe. SP37-44. ISSN 1088-0224
Culture in and of itself is not the most central variable in the patient-provider encounter. The effect of culture is most pronounced when it intersects with low education, low literacy skills, limited proficiency in English, culture-specific values regarding the authority of the physician, and poor assertiveness skills. These dimensions require attention in Medicaid managed care settings. However, the promise of better-coordinated and higher quality care for low-income and working-poor racial/ethnic populations--at a lower cost to government--has yet to be fully realized. This paper identifies strategies to reduce disparities in access to healthcare that call for partnerships across government agencies and between federal and state governments, provider institutions, and community organizations. Lessons learned from successful precedents must drive the development of new programs in Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) to reduce disparities. Collection of population-based data and analyses by race, ethnicity, education level, and patient's primary language are critical steps for MCOs to better understand their patients' healthcare status and improve their care. Research and experience have shown that by acknowledging the unique healthcare conditions of low-income racial and ethnic minority populations and by recruiting and hiring primary care providers who have a commitment to treat underserved populations, costs are reduced and patients are more satisfied with the quality of care.
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