populations (3), the data were used to help marketing efforts (3), and data collection was permitted by statute (1).
Data collection primarily occurred upon health plan enrollment. Fourteen responses indicated that data on race and ethnicity were voluntarily collected from the state Medicaid or federal Medicare enrollment files (9), directly from the enrollee (4), or by the caretaker or guardian (1).
Among the responses received from health plans that did not voluntarily collect data, eight stated that data collection was unnecessary, seven stated that it was legally allowed but not authorized by the health plan, six stated that either they had concerns about the enrollee’s reactions, or there was no good or reliable system for collection, two stated that either it was prohibited by law or external regulation or they did not know, and one response indicated that either the data would be unreliable, too costly to collect and maintain, or there was no good or reliable classification system for race and ethnicity. Fifteen health plans stated that there were drawbacks to collecting these data. Specific issues identified were concerns about enrollees’ perceptions, there was no good or reliable system for data collection, the data collection was legally allowed but not authorized by the plan, data would be unreliable, too costly to collect and maintain, or there was no good or reliable system to classify race and ethnicity.
In early March 2003, an e-mail survey was sent to a designated contact person in each of the 250 member organizations of the American Medical Group Association. The e-mail was sent from the AMGA offices in Alexandria, Virginia, and the cover note described the purpose of the survey as gathering information about current practices and policies with regard to collection of data on race and ethnicity. An e-mail response option was provided; all responses were returned to the AMGA office and automatically entered into a database. A total of 83 valid surveys were returned, and another seven respondents replied by e-mail that they did not collect the information.
In response to the opening question about whether the group collected data on the race or ethnicity of patients, 21 of the 83 respondents (25 percent) answered “yes.” All but one of the others responded “no” and one was “not sure.”
The groups that did not collect data gave a variety of reasons for not doing so. The most frequently chosen reason for not collecting data was “concerns about patient reactions” (26/62 or 42 percent of those not col-