Complex decisions require effective communications and despite the growing bilingualism of Hispanics, there is still a great need for adequately translating open enrollment materials and providing consistent messaging across many different providers. Open Enrollment is a period that is affiliated with a lot of anxiety among employees. Healthcare Translations for open enrollment are one our main areas of expertise and we can help you to alleviate that anxiety and help to eliminate the healthcare disparities that may arise at your workplace from a Spanish speaking workforce that does not have the information they need in their language to make decisions for their health.
Open Enrollment is the only time when employees can make important decisions about their benefit options for the coming year. There are many options from which to choose, from Health Insurance with complex plan options to Flexible Spending Accounts, Life Insurance, Worker’s Comp; all from a wide range of providers. Employees need to deal with a complex set healthcare concepts in a short period of time that requires effective and engaging enrollment programs.
The case for Awareness
One group with an increasing interest in buying healthcare is the Hispanic population, yet they are still more likely to be uninsured than any other ethnic group. The Affordable Care Act along with important outreach programs has been a tremendous help to get more Hispanics to make informed decisions about their healthcare options, but it has not closed that gap yet. Hispanics, like all other ethnic groups, take a price sensitive approach to healthcare, but they are often unaware of the financial assistance and penalties that informs their decision to buy into the healthcare system. Research has shown that awareness training greatly improves the likelihood of participation.
An effective open enrollment program can help to drive benefit-engagement with employees and there is a lot of research out there on what drives engagement. Programs need to address the information needs of the employees so that they can make informed decisions. This is no different for Hispanics, but there is more that can be done further to engage with Hispanics. For that, employers and consultants need to understand what is important for Hispanic employees to know before they make decisions. Cultural and language factors should also be taken into account when designing open enrollment materials for your Spanish speaking employees.
Why Translation matters
Open Enrollment has become a more complex process due to emerging technology and the need to expand information beyond just providing brochures. Employers provide training sessions, online apps, and additional resources via phone or virtual meetings that employees can use to their benefit.
One recommendation for effective enrollment is already ingrained in Hispanics by including family in the decision making. Hispanics are more likely to include the family before making important decisions, which means that information needs to be accessible to take home and often presented to different generations. According to research, 61% of first generation Hispanics report themselves having Spanish as their predominant language. This number greatly declines with second generation Hispanics, although more than 50% consider themselves bilingual. By translating healthcare and enrollment materials in Spanish, there is a greater chance for acceptance and awareness for the whole family in making decisions about complex healthcare concepts.
Consistency is also important, not only across multiple platforms (print, online, in-person), but also from Open Enrollment awareness training, signing up to actually using the insurance products. Complex terminology and foreign healthcare concepts increase the likelihood that enrollment information is skimmed over or misunderstood. High quality Spanish enrollment communications can help to not only increase the awareness of these concepts, but it can also help to build trust early on.
How to Build Trust
Creating awareness takes a multi-channel approach that includes plan sponsors, benefit enrollment specialists and insurance agents. Open Enrollment is the first step in creating that awareness. The standards among insurance agencies vary greatly and not every insurance agent or enrollment specialist is an expert in Spanish. The Insurance industry is struggling to find qualified bilingual or Spanish speaking personnel to help Hispanics with enrollment.
From our translation expert:
“What happens oftentimes is that insurance agents hire different interpreters for different enrollments. If the company would use the same hired interpreter, the interpreter will gain a high level of competence, but it is cost prohibitive due to the amount of traveling this person would need to do. Therefore, many insurance agents and enrollment specialists rely on interpreters with varying skills.”
In addition, each State has different standards for certifying insurance products and its communications in Spanish, creating a wealth of terminology standards to which professional translators in this field should adhere. Consistency in terminology is key to understanding health care options.
Hispanics take a relationship approach toward dealing with companies. They like to do business with companies by comparing information and evaluating personal experiences after the sale. For Health Insurance, this may mean evaluating how well claims are being followed up with, how well their agent/company understands them and whether they understand the information from that company.
If presented with information one way and different elsewhere, understanding this information can confuse and frustrate Hispanic users. In our translation of benefit materials for employees in Spanish, having Spanish language industry experts in the field of insurance is a key differentiation for our translation teams in this field as compared to other translation teams you may get from another provider (we’ve seen many other translations of these materials). One of our core competencies is building that expert team and identifying the competencies that your translation team must have for the project at hand.
Key Resources for Spanish Translators specializing in Insurance
Aflac has a wealth of information out in Spanish and having access to that glossary is vital to be consistent. They use the term Beneficios médicos suplementarios for Supplemental Medical Benefits, even though complementarios would be a good synonym in Spanish. Most Spanish language policies use Disposiciones del plan for Plan Provisions even though we have seen servicios in other translated documents. However, as our expert says, having an enrollment form say “servicios” and a policy using the term “disposiciones” is confusing, especially when the provisions include different kinds of stipulations other than services. This is just one example of how different translations of terminology can affect understanding. Read about our Study on Healthcare Terminology for Hispanics here.
Going beyond Enrollment
Another way to build trust is to give Hispanics a clear road map on how to get access to information in Spanish after they enroll. Too often, there is little time to research all resources and to see if there are other options for Spanish speaking audiences. If the Hispanic enrollment population is large enough, it may be beneficial to set up language support during enrollment, as well as providing the right resources in Spanish.
Some, but certainly not all plan providers, have Spanish language support. When translating materials in Spanish, it may be worth it to contact these providers to see if they can provide support in Spanish and to list that as an option in the materials that are presented. The benefit for employers? It shows care in building resources and can help to build relationships with your Spanish speaking employees.
Another successful strategy that was applied last year to gain participation of Hispanics with the ACA is direct outreach. Hispanics like to do business with people and by supplementing Enrollment Information with direct human interaction from a Spanish-speaking enrollment specialist has shown great results in mitigating some of the misconceptions about healthcare, enrollment and costs.
Get prepared for the next Open Enrollment
While most English speaking Americans tend to only review their benefit information annually, the Hispanic culture is often well prepared to evaluate plan options to fit their family needs. Research has shown that complex health concepts often stop Hispanics from beginning to evaluate options and companies should consider planning for translating their Open Enrollment programs into Spanish to effectively drive participation.
From Open Enrollment to welcome letters for change of status forms and letters from the claim department, etc, there is a great need for consistent messaging. With translation being often an afterthought to an extremely complex communication process, get your Hispanic employees involved early on by announcing Open Enrollment in Spanish. Ensure that Open Enrollment is translated by experts in the industry who are knowledgeable about different State requirements by each Department of Insurance and who are familiar with the translation practices and terminology use of plan providers. Language Solutions specializes in the field of Healthcare and Benefit translations. See our Infographic on Open Enrollment for Hispanics here. Or read about our Study on Healthcare Terminology for Hispanics here.
With Open Enrollment right around the corner, can you afford to wait?