Healthcare and the Exchanges.

By Jose Villa / Sensis

In the coming months, implementation of significant portions of the Affordable Care Act (also known as “ACA” or “ObamaCare”) will begin. Specifically, the individual health insurance exchanges (“Exchanges”) run by the states and the Federal government will launch in October, and next year the individual mandate requiring all individuals to have health insurance will be the law of the land. Regardless of what side of the political spectrum you fall on, there is a lot of uncertainty around implementation of this major legislation. As most in the healthcare industry will tell you, it will fundamentally change the industry.

As things heat up with ACA implementation, a lot of attention is being given to Hispanics. While some of that attention is driven by politics (based on the significant impact Hispanics had on the results of the 2012 election), most of it is being driven by market realities. Specifically, three characteristics of the Hispanic population:

– The Hispanic population is large and growing  – totaling over 51 million
– Hispanics are young – the median age of Hispanics in the U.S. is 28 (compared to 37 for the general market)
– Many Hispanics are uninsured – 30.7% of all uninsured in the U.S. are Hispanics, totaling 15.8 million

Hidden in this demographic data is the strategic importance of getting uninsured Hispanics to participate in the Exchanges. Since Hispanics are younger and therefore healthier, they are an important population from a risk perspective. If lots of currently uninsured, relatively younger and healthier Hispanics participate in the Exchanges, they will bring down the risk pool from an actuarial perspective. That means they make lower cost health insurance for relatively older, less healthy populations more economically feasible. Some say the success of ACA depends on the heavy participation of Hispanics. 

Now this is much easier said than done. This attractive Hispanic “Young & Healthy” population is made up of a lot of men… a lot of Hispanic men with an “invincible” mentality. We’ve seen in countless research studies quotes from this segment of Hispanics to the tune of “I’m young… I won’t get sick. Why pay if you never get sick?”  Add to this the confusion that many Hispanics face when dealing with a U.S. healthcare system. Again, healthcare vets will tell you that the U.S. healthcare system is particularly bewildering to many Hispanic immigrants (not to mention the broader population).

The big health insurers, particularly those in the individual understand the challenges of the Hispanic market all too well. There is a prevalent mindset among many Hispanics that private health insurance is too expensive for them to afford. There are also cultural barriers to the idea of health insurance – a common misconception among Hispanics is that insurance is something you buy only when you get sick.

While these challenges are significant, there is a path to success with Hispanics and healthcare. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

– When it comes to healthcare, Hispanic men and women behave differently, driven by different motivators
– Segmentation is critical – formative research to  segment your Hispanic audience is critical
– Understand that you will be undertaking a behavior change program, not unlike public health campaign to get people to exercise more, not smoke or eat differently
– Understand and model the process a Hispanic consumer goes through, and how an integrated advertising and outreach campaign can influence that process
– Digital is key – the Exchanges will be online, so your marketing has to align with the product.

By Jose Villa is the founder and president of Sensis, a cross-cultural advertising agency with digital at its core.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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