a proxy for earnings. This information can be obtained from the SSA Master Beneficiary Record, from which CMS has previously obtained data.

Leadership for Implementing OMB Standards for Health Data Collection

There is still a lack of understanding and delay in implementation of the new OMB standards for collecting racial and ethnic data, particularly outside the federal statistical community. Many attendees of the panel’s Workshop on Improving Race and Ethnicity Data Collection expressed confusion over what the minimum race categories were, whether more detailed categories could be used, how data on Hispanic ethnicity should be collected, how multiple-race responses should be handled, and how data collected before the new standards can be bridged to data collected since the standards were implemented (National Research Council, 2003).

The OMB has published materials to guide researchers in using the new standards and bridging to the old categories.12 But while federal researchers may be well aware of these standards, researchers at nonfederal levels may not be. DHHS should take a leadership role in educating relevant staff at all DHHS agencies, state health agencies, and private entities that collect data for DHHS programs about these new standards. The department should increase awareness of the OMB standards by disseminating the appropriate OMB materials to the various state and private entities from which DHHS obtains data. For example, CMS could distribute such materials to all state Medicaid directors. In addition, DHHS should assume responsibility for ensuring that the new standards are properly and consistently applied throughout the department’s data collection systems. Because it is often necessary to collect data for more specific racial and ethnic groups than are listed in the OMB standards, the panel also recommends that DHHS promote uniformity in such data collections by publishing suggested subclassifications for each of the OMB classifications for use in all DHHS data collection efforts. Such steps would be mutually beneficial both for states and private entities, who are looking for guidance on the OMB standards, and for DHHS, which relies on states and private entities to provide much of its data on health and especially health care-related topics. As the following chapter will discuss, the data collection efforts of many states are conducted for federal programs or in cooperation with federal agencies to obtain national-level data. DHHS can improve the state-based collections of information on race and ethnicity by being consistent across the department in requiring OMB standards in its data collection programs. Inasmuch


See for example, OMB (2000a and 2000b).

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