How a Spanish-first insurance agency is helping Hispanic communities navigate Medicare Advantage

Anhelo, a Medicare agency serving Hispanic populations, helped over 60,000 customers enroll in plans in 2021, its first year in operation. 

The business is Spanish-language first, helps customers choose plans over the phone and through WhatsApp, and provides educational materials on Medicare in Spanish. 

Sofia de la Guardia, content manager at Anhelo, sat down with Becker's to explain how the company approaches Medicare, and how payers can better serve Spanish-speaking Medicare eligibles. 

"Medicare is already really complicated," she said. "When you add to that, language barriers, cultural barriers, lack of generational knowledge for immigrants or first generation Hispanic-Americans, things can get a lot more complicated." 

Providing support in multiple languages

Ms. De La Guardia says Anhelo prides itself on being Spanish-speaking first, but is working on adding more English support to help multilingual families make decisions about Medicare together. 

"You have multigenerational families where maybe the parent who is Medicare-eligible speaks Spanish, but their adult child who helps them with their health and finance decisions speaks English," Ms. De La Guardia said. 

Avoiding deceptive marketing 

Medicare Advantage advertising has been subject to increased scrutiny. A recent Senate report called some Medicare Advantage marketing tactics "misleading and aggressive." 

Ms. De La Guardia said Spanish-speaking Medicare eligibles often encounter these marketing tactics. She said Anhelo often sees customers who have signed up for new plans from deceptive phone calls. 

"We see people who've changed plans two, three times a year, and they have absolutely no idea," she said. "They think they're talking to someone about Medicare from their own plan, and it turns out they're getting sold a new plan. It's heartbreaking because they feel so lost." 

Anhelo tries to be clear when enrolling customers, and follows up with them several times over the year to check in and make sure things are going smoothly with their plan, Ms. De La Guardia said. 

Building trust 

The first step payers can take to better support Spanish-speaking members is to make sure important documents are available in multiple languages, and ask members which language they prefer to communicate in, Ms. De La Guardia said. 

She added many people in the Hispanic community have grown distrustful of certain healthcare programs, especially after receiving phone calls about their insurance they may not understand. 

Asking members if they prefer information through mail or email can go a long way, Ms. De La Guardia said. 

"Providing them a space to receive information comfortably, in their language, is a simple thing that can be done that can really go miles in helping a person feel comfortable in their health decisions," she said.

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