En­roll­ment groups learn­ing from mis­takes in mar­ket­ing to Lati­nos

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Rachel Lan­den

Fac­ing low Latino en­roll­ment in Oba­macare plans, state ex­changes and en­roll­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions plan to spend less time on the air­waves and more on the ground to reach the Latino pop­u­la­tion be­fore the March 31 dead­line, as well as for the up­com­ing 2015 open en­roll­ment. They still have hopes of boost­ing Latino signups to re­spectable lev­els for this year.

Cal­i­for­nia’s state health in­sur­ance ex­change, Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia, an­nounced last month that it would ramp up its grass-roots ef­forts in Latino com­mu­ni­ties by host­ing in-store en­roll­ment events and adding more bilin­gual cer­ti­fied en­roll­ment coun­selors and cer­ti­fied in­sur­ance agents to its group of 4,180 statewide.

Though Cal­i­for­nia has led the na­tion in en­roll­ment, with more than 1 mil­lion res­i­dents signed up, that state, along with other states, has come un­der crit­i­cism for its rel­a­tively low num­ber of Latino en­rollees. De­spite spend­ing about $4.7 mil­lion on Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber and an­other $8.2 mil­lion af­ter Jan­uary, Cov­ered Cal­i­for­nia has strug­gled to pull in Lati­nos, who make up 60% of unin­sured res­i­dents. Only about 22% of state en­rollees be­tween Oc­to­ber and the end of Fe­bru­ary were Latino.

“No mat­ter how much money you put into an ef­fort, if ex­e­cu­tion is not done well, it’s not go­ing to be ef­fec­tive,” said Elvia Del­gado, vice pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing for Al­taMed, which op­er­ates not-for-profit clin­ics in Los Angeles and Or­ange coun­ties.

Mar­ket­ing ex­perts blame low Latino en­roll­ment on the state’s heavy re­liance on tra­di­tional me­dia strate­gies—dig­i­tal re­sources and brochures trans­lated from English to Span­ish— in­stead of pri­or­i­tiz­ing di­rect per­sonal con­tacts be­tween Latino con­sumers and people who can an­swer their en­roll­ment ques­tions in a cul­tur­ally and lin­guis­ti­cally com­fort­able way.

“The ma­jor miss for Oba­macare is that it re­ally forced people into the web­site,” said Car­los San­ti­ago, pres­i­dent and chief strate­gist of San­ti­ago So­lu­tions Group, a Los Angeles-based His­panic mar­ket re­search firm. “The ads didn’t give you a choice, other than a www ad­dress. There was no phys­i­cal ad­dress, no 800 num­ber.”

That cre­ates prob­lems for people with limited In­ter­net ac­cess, said Shana Alex Lavarreda, di­rec­tor of health in­sur­ance stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los Angeles Cen­ter for Health Pol­icy Re­search. But the ap­proach also fails to rec­og­nize the pref­er­ence of many Lati­nos for per­sonal rec­om­men­da­tions and in­ter­ac­tions.

“The cul­ture is more about word of mouth and sit­ting down with people,” said U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). In her Or­ange County district, Sanchez has been host­ing events at high schools, pub­lic li­braries and com­mu­nity fairs with bilin­gual en­roll­ment coun­selors.

Sim­i­lar in-per­son out­reach ef­forts are tak­ing place in Hous­ton, where 47% of res­i­dents are His­panic and about half are unin­sured. The Gulf Coast Health In­sur­ance Col­lab­o­ra­tive has been sched­ul­ing ed­u­ca­tional and en­roll­ment events al­most ev­ery day.

Back in Cal­i­for­nia, Al­taMed’s two en­roll­ment cen­ters in Santa Ana and Los Angeles are open six days a week. People line up by 7 a.m. to get in and meet with one of the 120 bilin­gual en­roll­ment coun­selors, Del­gado said. “In the last week, we’ve seen 1,500 walk-ins in both lo­ca­tions, and our call cen­ter has seen a 60% in­crease in call vol­ume with people inquiring about the ACA and seek­ing as­sis­tance,” Del­gado said.

Though March 31 is the end of open en­roll­ment in pri­vate plans for 2014, Al­taMed plans to keep its en­roll­ment cen­ters open to con­tinue help­ing people sign up for Med­i­caid through­out the year and to pre­pare for 2015 pri­vate plan en­roll­ment start­ing in Novem­ber.

Molina Health­care, which is of­fer­ing plans on the in­sur­ance ex­changes in nine states, is fo­cus­ing its Latino out­reach in four states—Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Wash­ing­ton and Wis­con­sin. Molina has com­bined tar­geted ad­ver­tis­ing—ads on buses in Latino com­mu­ni­ties and in stores such as Fam­ily Dol­lar and K-Mart—with pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tions in English as a sec­ond lan­guage classes and in lo­cal churches.

“You have to go into the churches and into the com­mu­ni­ties to spread the word,” said Felipe Korzenny, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for His­panic Mar­ket­ing Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at Florida State Univer­sity. “It’s got to be more grass roots.”

Molina Health­care, which is do­ing out­reach in Cal­i­for­nia, New Mex­ico, Wash­ing­ton and Wis­con­sin, has fo­cused on per­sonal out­reach in Latino com­mu­ni­ties.

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