Imagine a world in which every American is a subject matter expert in the price and process of purchasing medical services. In this ideal healthcare system, each person actively shops around for medic...
There’s no doubt about it—the American workforce and overall population is becoming increasingly diverse, and Hispanics account for a large part of this growth:
Latinos are the country’s second largest racial or ethnic group, behind white non-Hispanics. Between 2010 and 2019, the Latino share of the total U.S. population increased from 16% to 18%. Latinos accounted for about half (52%) of all U.S. population growth over this period.1
The Latino population is growing faster in the South than in any other U.S. region. It increased by 26% from 2010 to 2019, rising from 18.3 million to 23.1 million. States in the Northeast (18% increase), Midwest (18%), and West (14%) also experienced growth in the number of Latinos from 2010 to 2019. Nationally, the Latino population has grown 19% since 2010, by 9.8 million people.1
This increased diversity is great for employers. According to BuiltIn, “Diverse companies enjoy 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee.One study looked at companies with diverse management teams and found that, on average, they enjoyed a 19% increase in revenue compared to their less diverse counterparts.”
Having a diverse workforce can also present unique challenges for employers when it comes to educating employees about their health benefits. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the barriers to access that some Hispanic employees may face, and discuss strategies for increasing education and adoption of health benefits options among this employee population.
Barriers to Access
One significant barrier to fully understanding their health benefits that some Hispanic employees may face is language fluency. Census data from 2017 shows that 72% of Hispanics speak a language other than English at home.2 According to PubMed, “The U.S. healthcare system is largely geared toward serving English speakers. A systematic study examining language barriers in healthcare for Latino populations showed that language barriers can adversely affect quality of care.” Not being fully fluent in English can impact a person’s ability to fill out medical documents for insurance purposes, as well as limit their understanding of how to use their health benefits.
It is significant to note that Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States. In 2017, the Census Bureau reported that 49.0% of Hispanics had private insurance coverage, as compared to 75.4% for non-Hispanic whites.3
Health Information Sources
Twenty-eight percent of Hispanics report having obtained no information at all from a healthcare professional in the past year. Most Latinos get information about healthcare from either the media, or from their friends, families, and community groups.4 Not having a reliable source of information about health benefits is a significant challenge for many Hispanic employees.
Using Health Insurance is Complicated
Even for a person who is perfectly fluent in English and has adequate healthcare coverage, using health insurance is complicated! Each plan has its own rules about which doctors are in-network, which services are covered and in what amount, and what your co-pay and deductible will be. There is also a lot of healthcare jargon that you must be familiar with to fully understand your benefits—terms like HSA, primary care, in-network provider, co-insurance, deductible, and reimbursements are complex industry concepts that your employees may not be familiar with.
Encouraging Insurance Literacy
Encouraging insurance and health benefits literacy among all of your employees will help set them up to receive the maximum value from their health benefits. According to Health Affairs, “To successfully engage consumers in getting and using their health insurance, marketplace efforts, including assisters, navigators, and brokers, must provide outreach and education to the populations of interest, help with enrollment and informing populations about use.”
Consider developing simple, step-by-step guides to help employees effectively use their health benefits. Include a brief description of common industry terms and an easy-to-understand explanation of benefits for each plan. Include carrier and/or broker contact information so your employees know who to reach out to if they have questions about their benefits. Make sure that these guides are available in both English and Spanish.
Communicating Health Benefits Effectively
Offering your employees competitive health benefits is only half the battle. After you’ve shopped around to find a plan that works for your business, your employees, and your budget, the next obstacle you face is effectively communicating the plan benefits to your employee base.
Communicating the importance of health insurance to minority groups requires effective communication and empathy from a broker who understands that it may be intimidating for a minority to understand and properly use benefits. To ensure that you are offering the best support to your employees, you’ll need to tailor your communication strategy for your different employee populations. You can target segments of employees who would benefit most from specific features of a benefit by sending tailored communications.
Related Reading: 5 Steps to an Effective Benefits Communication Program
Part of ensuring that you are effectively communicating health benefits to your Hispanic employees should include offering dual-language enrollment guides, forms, and other educational marketing material. It is also important that you have accountants and account managers who are able to offer bi-lingual services available.
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Will Rauch is a Senior Employee Benefits Consultant who joined SWBC in 2019. He strategically consults and partners with employers of all industries, with a strong emphasis on mid-sized employers ranging anywhere from 50 employees to 1,000 employees. Will’s background includes 10 years of business to business managed professional services in both the U.S. and international markets. Will is a graduate of St. Mary’s University with a double major in Corporate Financial Management and International Business.