How can “Uninsured” Hispanics be Sure?


tom_kadalaOpinion: ‘Uninsured’ Hispanics need concrete Assurances

For hundreds of years, insurance has been an important part of the American culture.   The relatively straightforward concept of pooling affordable premiums to help out the statistically few who may encounter the unlikely has become the backbone of both our economy and social status.  From driving a car to running a business, there is insurance for anyone and anything.  …and to acquire insurance, all one needs to do is request it over the phone or web and agree to pay the corresponding premiums. 

Of course, the underlining current that drives the demand for insurance is hard evidence that people who are afflicted actually get paid.   Without these concrete and visible examples, insurance buyers might shy away from paying premiums, 

if even for a moment they felt that their insurance company was more interested in collecting premiums rather than dispersing payments.  The fact is that our society in the U.S. is so conditioned to accept the need for insurance that the only question that remains among most consumers is ‘Do you have enough coverage?’  …insinuating that even the thought of not having insurance is practically ‘un-American’. 

To further support the evidence that the insurance system works, insurance companies spend millions in running aggressive ad campaigns designed to reassure the public that when a disaster occurs, insurance protection will be immediately available to bail them out.   These ads have been so effective that the messages along with their corresponding jingle have become household terms.  For example, ‘Get Met, It Pays’ or ‘You’re in Good Hands with Allstate’ or ‘Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there’.  Why is it then that so many Hispanics, who can afford insurance, remain uninsured? 

In my travels I have heard all kinds of explanations from self-proclaimed insurance experts such as, “Hispanics don’t understand the concept of insurance?”  …or, “They don’t like to plan for the unexpected?” …or, “It’s a gender thing where Hispanic women may be more prone to purchase insurance while men are not.  It’s not a macho thing to do.”  Whatever the reason, insurance lacks the integrated presence in Hispanic cultures.  Insurance ads on TV, print, or radio practically do not exist.  The literal translation of “Are you covered?” does not make sense in Spanish, and the appropriate phrases used lack a colloquial familiarity.  It’s just not part of their everyday speech.

As for evidence of insurance companies paying their policy holders in Latin American countries, few, if any, can vouch.  Insurance companies in Latin America don’t go out of their way to explain their services and much less their benefits.  They don’t have to, since most premiums are government regulated and are for the most part perceived by the consumer as an added tax.  In fact one of the terms used to express ‘premium’ in Spanish is synonymous to the word used for ‘taxing’. 

As for U.S. insurance companies who are looking to win over Hispanic consumers, they should look for ways to become an integral part of the Hispanic culture.  If presented properly, Hispanics will listen.  Companies should be prepared to be patient.  It just may take some extra time to undo their negative perceptions.

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