The importance of getting & using health insurance: A Latino perspective

It’s important to have health insurance for routine and preventive care, as well as for those occasions when emergencies arise. According to U.S. Census data from 2017, Latinos experienced a higher uninsured rate than non-Hispanic whites — 18 percent vs. 6 percent — that included private and public health insurance options. However, the good news is that coverage for Latinos has improved significantly from just a few years prior when the uninsured rate was 28 percent in 2013.

Hispanic families tend to be larger and younger than other demographic groups, with extended families living within the same household. While Hispanics have a slightly higher life expectancy than non-Hispanics, about two years more on average for both men and women, the leading causes of their health concerns are no surprise — cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver and heart disease. It has long been known that prevention is much cheaper than treatment, so how can Latinos be encouraged to seek health care when faced with unknown costs, confusing types of coverage, and the added concern of language barriers?

Access to help in Spanish is key for many, along with receiving culturally competent service and care, like bilingual and bi-cultural providers and staff who can not only handle the basic needs, but can alleviate fears and build trust, while encouraging care and healthy practices. Right now, the unacculturated Latino community is fearful and uncomfortable, unwilling to reach out and participate in the available programs offered by partners like Maryland Health Connection.

I truly commend the many resources on hand at Maryland Health Connection, including bilingual support available online and in person. Spanish-speakers can feel comfortable asking questions one-on-one by phone, at local enrollment events, or by downloading the free mobile app, which offers a step-by-step process for gathering the items needed, choosing a plan, applying for coverage, and arranging payment. Health and dental plans are available for individuals and families. These plans can be accessed by many, and the state offers financial support, so folks pay less out of pocket.

To continue to serve the Latino market and other underserved communities, consistent outreach, with positive reinforcement and availability of resources is needed. Open enrollment is Nov. 1–Dec. 15, and Maryland Health Connection works with many community partners, especially in Latino-dense communities, to facilitate access and get people enrolled. This is wonderful and so important! Health insurance is not only a safety net, but an opportunity to improve our lives, ensuring we are healthy, both body and mind! And this goes for our kids and families too. Imagine the comfort of knowing our babies are vaccinated, well cared for and ready to take on the future.

Friends, being healthy doesn’t just happen. We need to be proactive, becoming informed and taking the steps needed to enact preventive wellness for ourselves and our families. Open enrollment is the perfect time for everyone to get started! So visit www.MarylandHealthConnection.gov or call 855-642-8572. Help is available in your language.

Guest blog written by Veronica Cool

Veronica Cool is founder and CEO of Cool & Associates, LLC, a consulting firm that connects the Hispanic and mainstream markets. In addition to being an entrepreneur and a Hispanic strategist, she is a leader in the Latino community in Maryland and her agency partners with Maryland Health Connection to help spread the word about health care enrollment in the state.