Health insurance like buying a BMW for some Spanish speakers

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

When new Connect for Health Colorado ads launch this fall, Spanish speakers will hear a different message from other potential customers. The call to action will be “Come and learn” rather than “Come and buy,” the message that will bombard most other customers.

That’s because many Spanish-speaking immigrants don’t even ponder buying health insurance since they think it’s out of reach financially, according to a consultant who is advising Connect for Health.

“Spanish speakers have the perception that health insurance is not an option for them so they are not looking for health insurance,” Melissa Burkhart, founder of the translation firm, Futuro Sólido USA, told Colorado health exchange board members this week.

“It’s something that they feel is beyond their reach for whatever reasons. Saying come buy health insurance could be received in the same way as come buy a BMW,” Burkhart said. “Well, I’d love to come buy a BMW, but I haven’t budgeted for that this year.”

Undocumented immigrants will not be eligible for any federal tax credits under Obamacare as they were deliberately excluded from the Affordable Care Act. But health exchanges and insurance companies across the country eagerly will be wooing legal immigrants who speak Spanish along with Latinos in general. That’s because the potential market is huge. Latinos are uninsured at disproportionately high rates in Colorado and elsewhere in the country. Here in Colorado, about one in three Latinos lacks health insurance.

As Burkhart works with the Connect for Health communications team, she will be encouraging outreach efforts that urge Spanish speakers to check out Colorado’s exchange without pressuring them.

“You won’t know what your options are unless you come have a look. That is the direction of the materials that will be put out in Spanish media,” Burkhart said. “We really want to be careful that our messaging in Spanish reflects the needs of the Spanish-speaking immigrant population.”

Connect for Health has a team of Spanish speakers at its Colorado Springs call center and will have a Spanish version of its website. Rather than translating the English word-for-word into Spanish, managers opted for translation that’s more culturally sensitive.

“We really have a Spanish language site,” said Patty Fontneau, CEO and executive director for Connect for Health. “There are even slightly different messages to target our audience. We’re proud of it.”

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