Thursday, June 9, 2011

Challenges of informing Hispanic business owners on health reform

Hispanics are the hardest to reach in messaging about health care.
By Althea Fung , National Journal

Racial and ethnic-minority business owners stand to gain a lot from the implementation of the health care reform law, but advocates of the law have found it hard to get many Hispanic business owners to understand the ins and outs of the health insurance exchanges and the high-risk insurance pools.

Minority-owned small businesses are the fastest growing small business group in the country, with 5.8 million, according to a report from the Center for American Progress and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Of these, 2.3 million are Hispanic-owned.

While they are flourishing, many are unable to insure their employees, according to the left-leaning CAP. They could get subsidized insurance through the high-risk pools or insurance exchanges mandated under the health reform law, but don't know about these benefits, the report finds.

Approximately 36 percent of Asian Americans employed by small businesses are uninsured, as are 40 percent of African-American small-business employees and 57 percent of Hispanic small-business employees.

Groups trying to educate small-business owners on their options in picking affordable health care struggle to cross the language barrier, said Javier Palomarez, the Hispanic Chamber's president.

“A large percentage of Hispanic businesses are Spanish dominant. Even if the business isn’t Spanish dominant the employees might be,” Palomarez told a telephone briefing. "We are also in industries that typically are not well educated or made aware of health care issues."

Businesses like landscaping, agriculture, and construction tend to be the least educated on the benefits of the law, Palomarez said. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has received help from the National Association of Hispanic Publishers to put out information in Spanish in publications nationwide. The Chamber has also joined with CAP to inform communities, but Palomarez says it is still a challenge to ensure businesses and employees understand the message.

“Many of our business kind of think ‘there’s nothing in this for me,’ ‘this does not apply to me,’ ‘I’m too small,’ ‘I haven’t heard about it,’ ‘I have a vague notion of what’s going on, but I don’t know its applicability to me or my business,’ ” he said. “That exactly is the problem. “

Hispanics tend to be the hardest group to reach in messaging for health care. Despite concerns that the burgeoning Latino population would weigh down the health care system with the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of the health insurance exchanges in 2014, many Hispanic-owned businesses are apprehensive about enrolling, said Palomarez.

That translates to poorer health. As the Latino population continues to grow, cases of obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes continue to increase. Lack of access to adequate medical care worsens these usually manageable conditions, and when patients eventually have an emergency as a result—often a heart attack or stroke—it costs far more to treat them.

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