Payers, states continue focus on Latino communities

Despite implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many Mexican immigrants and naturalized citizens living in states like California and Texas cross the border to access healthcare services, reports Kaiser Health News. Treatments in Mexico usually cost less, and the doctors speak their language.

Many insurers targeted promotional efforts to the Hispanic consumer market, but the enrollment numbers fell way below expectations. In Pennsylvania alone, only 3.4 percent of Latinos enrolled in a plan--the Latino community makes up 6.1 percent of the state's total population.

Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the country, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reports the McClatchy-Tribune.

"The Latino community does have some unique challenges," Mayra Alvarez, associate director of the Office of Minority Health at HHS, told Bloomberg. Alvarez reiterated the need to educate Latinos on the "concept of health insurance."

Alvarez also stated that Latinos appreciate face-to-face time to help them with the enrollment process. Moreover, Latinos respond well to "trusted resources" when hoping to gain knowledge about healthcare, such as community organizations or a well-informed family member, according to the McClatchy-Tribune.

Last summer, Hispanic health clinics and community organizations said they did not have enough bilingual and bicultural staff or the necessary funds for outreach efforts to handle the enrollment process for the 10 million Latinos eligible for healthcare coverage, according to a survey by the National Council of La Raza, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

In Pennsylvania, government representatives said they will use what they learned from the first enrollment period to better prepare for the future. "We are going to redouble our efforts within the Latino communities," Bill England, director of the Philadelphia office of Get Covered America, an enrollment organization, told the McClatchy-Tribune. "We have to more mindfully recruit more Spanish-speaking volunteers."

What will boost enrollment in the Latino community? Typically, Hispanic consumers don't use a website to look for information, choosing instead to use call centers, navigators or other sources, such as family and friends. Insurers should combine online-focused outreach campaigns with bilingual call centers and in-person assistance, as well as address population- and locality-specific barriers to health plan enrollment, according to a March Health Affairs report.

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the McClatchy-Tribune piece
- here's the Bloomberg story