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Aetna Launches Program to Improve Asthma Outcomes of African American and Hispanic Medicaid Members in Delaware

-- Initiative strengthens company’s decade-long mission to achieve racial and ethnic equality in health care --

Monday, March 7, 2011 12:31 pm EST

Dateline:

DOVER, Del.
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Public Company Information:

NYSE:
AET
"Asthma has the highest prevalence in African Americans. They are three times more likely to die from asthma than non-Hispanic whites"

DOVER, Del.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aetna (NYSE: AET) today announced a pilot program for its Medicaid members in Delaware. This program aims to improve health outcomes of Hispanic and African American patients who struggle with asthma. The pilot is a year-long initiative that adds new health care interventions to better control asthma and help reduce the need for emergency room visits.

Nearly 1,000 child, teen and adult members of Delaware Physicians Care, Aetna’s Medicaid plan in the state of Delaware, are expected to participate in the pilot. The program coincides with Aetna’s 10th anniversary of working to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care – through researching, developing and delivering culturally appropriate care for its members.

Wayne Rawlins, M.D., national medical director, racial and ethnic equality initiative at Aetna, says the disparities in asthma are compelling. “Asthma has the highest prevalence in African Americans. They are three times more likely to die from asthma than non-Hispanic whites,” Rawlins says, citing statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Asthma is a potentially life-threatening respiratory condition that affects more than 22 million people in the United States.

In Aetna’s Delaware pilot, a combination of interventions will be used with the Medicaid members. Participants will receive culturally appropriate educational materials and disease management programs. These “health literate” resources are written in plain language so that they are easy to understand. Additionally, patients are offered the opportunity to have their homes receive an environmental assessment.

The educational materials and disease management programs are also customized by age group. They are broken down into three groups: children, teens and adults. This multifaceted approach gives members practical information about asthma and explains ways to best manage their chronic condition. The pilot also aims to strengthen the link between members and their physicians.

“We’re eager to test the interventions planned in this asthma pilot. We believe they will actively engage our members in their health care,” says Rawlins. “The goal is to help patients of all ages improve control of their asthma. Keeping the condition ‘in check’ can greatly improve the lives those who have to live with asthma. We are testing ways to make sure patients have what they need in order to follow the guidelines their doctors recommend.”

Key success factors

The pilot program’s success will be determined by the health outcomes of the patients, including improved medication compliance. Specifically, the pilot aims to increase the use of patients’ asthma controller medications, as well as increase members’ visits to their primary care physicians and asthma specialists. The pilot also seeks to reduce avoidable, asthma-related emergency rooms visits and in-patient hospital admissions.

“After examining the statistics related to the impact of asthma on our 100,000 members in Delaware, we observed many of the same disparities noted in the national statistics,” says Stan Lynch, M.D., chief medical officer of Delaware Physicians Care. “For example, African Americans have a several-fold increase over whites in emergency room visits related to asthma. They also are much more likely to be admitted to the hospital as an inpatient due to a tendency in this population to not adhere to their doctors’ treatment guidelines, possibly due to a lack of understanding of how to control their asthma. We are delighted to be able to address some of these disparities by improving asthma care and outcomes through this innovative program.”

Building on 10 years of addressing health disparities

The Delaware Physicians Care pilot builds on Aetna’s 10-year history in combating health care disparities. The company announced its racial and ethnic equality in health care Chairman’s Initiative in 2001. The following year, Aetna’s pioneering step to begin the voluntary collection of race and ethnicity data from members made it one of the first insurers to gather such data. Currently, Aetna has nearly six million active members who have volunteered this information.

“We make every effort to ensure that all of our members receive high-quality health care -- regardless of their race or ethnicity,” says Rawlins. “Aetna is committed to addressing the persistent challenges of disparities in health care for minorities. We know it can lead to better health outcomes for these populations. We look forward to the outcomes of this pilot and applying what we learn to our broader membership.”

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 35.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see www.aetna.com.

About Delaware Physicians Care

Aetna administers Medicaid services to more than 1.2 million members in 12 states, including 100,000 members statewide in Delaware through Delaware Physicians Care. The plan began administering care to Delaware Medicaid members in 2004 and has been named one of the top Medicaid plans in the nation for three years in a row by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). For more information about Delaware Physicians Care, go to www.delawarephysicianscare.com.

Contact:

Media Contact:
Aetna
Walt Cherniak, 410-401-9490
CherniakJrW@aetna.com