Hispanics are expected to comprise 30% of the US population by 2050, but they’re also the least likely to be covered by health insurance than any other group in the US. This makes the Hispanic community a key market for producers looking to expand their business through health reform, but community leaders suggest it will take a lot of effort on the part of agents and brokers.
“[Hispanics] are going to have to be educated,” said Daisy Morales with Houston-based Community Health Choice. “They don’t trust the Affordable Care Act. They see all the negative press. They’re not even listening.”
More than 40% of Hispanic adults are currently without health insurance, and consequently face a $95 fee next year that may well be daunting. They also face an array of challenges surrounding HealthCare.gov and the enrollment process.
Not only are Hispanics facing the same website glitches as other healthcare shoppers in the country, they are still awaiting the delayed launch of the Spanish-language equivalent of HealthCare.gov. The Spanish-language enrollment tools were posted over the weekend, but Frank Rodriguez with the Latino Health Forum in Austin, Texas told the Daily Beast it isn’t enough.
“That Spanish website, that’s a biggie for me, because we’re finding that a lot of people would prefer to communicate in Spanish and want bilingual information,” Rodriguez said. “That needs to be fixed and quickly.”
Shirley Borghi, interim executive director of the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia, said that producers who speak Spanish are perfectly poised to get around that particular obstacle, however.
"We are very blessed that our brokers are multilingual, so they have a staff that speaks Spanish and other Latin dialects," she said. "They have been very successful. There's not an intimidation there just because [Hispanics] don't speak English, or don't speak it as a first language. [Brokers] can speak the language and they can answer the questions."
Borghi mentioned that the "trust factor" is also important for producers looking to reach out to new Hispanic clients. That comes through understanding the "cultural diversity and nuances within the community," she said.
"Information is power to the person who receives it," Borghi said. "You need to understand the Hispanic and Latino community, the culture, and how to reach them. If you can't, then right there, there's a bottle stop."
To really reach out to the Hispanic population in Georgia, Borghi said producers organized a Spanish-language campaign through the state's rail and bus system.
"It was a driven campaign that is in native Spanish that allows people to know they have an outreach program, that there are places to go," she said. "If you can't reach the ACA website, brokers are a good service. They're more able to sell a product that is the right fit for an individual, rather than forcing a peg into a hole."
For those who manage to connect with the community as the producers working with HHCGA have done, Morales said there is a business opportunity that wasn't there before health reform.
“This is going to be the first time [Hispanics] will have a great opportunity to get insurance with rich benefits at an affordable cost,” she said.
Morales said the key thing for producers to remember with regard to healthcare enrollment is that the Hispanic community needs to “understand it, that they can trust it, and that they can use it.”