This January 2001 letter (sometimes referred to as the “Aetna letter”), was jointly issued by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights Director Tom Perez and Assistant Secretary of Health and Surgeon General David Satcher, and clarifies that it is legal under federal law for health care organizations and providers to collect race and ethnicity data from their patients.  The letter highlights the importance of such data collection and analysis to identify and eliminate health care disparities.  The letters sent to the American Medical Association,  American Hospital Association, American Association of Health Plans and Health Insurance Association of America (which merged in 2003 to form America’s Health Insurance Plans) are below.  Similar letters were sent to national physician organizations, the Joint Commission, National Committee for Quality Assurance, national minority health organizations, national voluntary associations, and other stakeholders.

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