Opinion

Hispanics: A Growing Force in the New Health Economy

When the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges reopen enrollment this fall, many companies will look to tap the growing prominence of Hispanic consumers. Healthcare companies that use technology wisely and partner with brands already familiar to Hispanics will have the advantage in reaching the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group.

Although the US Hispanic pocketbook packs a punch–$1.2 trillion in purchasing power in 2013, more than any other ethnic group1 –the health industry has yet to win the Hispanic consumer and their dollar. More than 10 million Hispanics could gain health insurance coverage under the ACA through Medicaid expansion and the marketplaces, which are entering year two. Yet, Hispanics only accounted for 7.4%–about 400,000–of more than 5 million enrollees in the federal marketplaces last year.2,3

For businesses aiming to succeed in the new health economy, Hispanics represent unparalleled growth opportunities. Some firms are already developing focused strategies that cater to this important group—who are mobile savvy, cost conscious, and prefer receiving care in alternative settings.

However, the road to enticing the Hispanic health market could be arduous. According to a recent survey by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI)4, while Hispanics are more likely than other consumers to search online for healthcare information, just 21% had visited health insurance exchange websites. Of those who did, less than half felt they understood their insurance options. HRI also found some Hispanic consumers unfamiliar with the term “health insurance exchange.”

Some companies are overcoming these challenges. For example, Molina Healthcare partnered with CVS Pharmacy to specifically educate Hispanics about gaining coverage in California. The company also has an information center in the San Bernardino mall to connect community members with local food banks, healthcare resources, and other sources of support. To increase access to local hospitals, Goodwill, and grocery stores, Molina shuttles operate in communities with large Hispanic populations.

Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in five states, piloted retail locations with bilingual staff in select Hispanic neighborhoods during open enrollment. With minimal marketing, the company had long lines of people seeking information.

EmblemHealth, a health insurer serving New York City, introduced Neighborhood Care in 2013 by opening three walk-in sites in which individuals and families can speak to EmblemHealth professionals with ties to the community.

Price continues to be a major factor in Hispanics’ decision to obtain coverage. In the HRI survey, nearly half of Hispanics ranked cost as the number one factor when seeking healthcare, over both quality and convenience. This group is looking for ways to cut cost. For instance, Hispanics are more likely to download coupons to their mobile device than other consumers.

Less-expensive and more-convenient retail clinics are attractive to Hispanics, who were twice as likely to seek care in a retail clinic or pharmacy than other consumer groups. Major players in retail health already sense the new opportunity. In July, CVS announced it will buy Miami-based Navarro Discount Pharmacy, the country’s largest Hispanic-owned drugstore chain that offers a line of ethnic products. Appreciating the value of the Navarro brand among Hispanics in South Florida, CVS will keep the Navarro name. Another strategy for retail pharmacies is to target specific conditions that are especially prevalent in the Hispanic community, such as diabetes.

Hispanics’ on-the-go lifestyles and strong connections with friends and family drive a reliance on mobile and social technology. Most (95%) Hispanics use smartphones daily, and one-third say they use social media to make decisions about healthcare and coverage5. Newcomers such as health exchange insurer Oscar Health–which promotes the use of technology and offers plans with free telemedicine visits and generic drugs–could emerge as highly appealing options for Hispanics. Younger Hispanics, who often influence the healthcare purchasing decisions of older family members, especially prefer the ease of new technology.

Hispanics are looking for new ways of getting care, making them critical customers in the value-based health market. As price competition for Hispanics in the exchanges heats up, companies must become more strategic. A deeper understanding of Hispanics’ health-related attitudes, preferences and behaviors will make the long road ahead less bumpy.

By Frank Lemmon, Principal, PwC Health Industries, and Sarah Haflett, Senior Manager, PwC’s Health Research Institute


[1] The Neilsen Company, “State of the Hispanic Consumer: The Hispanic Market Imperative,” Quarter 2, 2012; http://es.nielsen.com/site/documents/State_of_Hispanic_Consumer_Report_4-16-FINAL.pdf

[2] http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2014/MarketPlaceEnrollment/Apr2014/ib_2014Apr_enrollment.pdf.

[3] One-third of enrollees did not identify ethnicity.

[4] “Hispanics: A growing force in the new health economy,” PwC’s Health Research Institute, May, 2014

[5] “Hispanics: A growing force in the new Health Economy,” PwC’s Health Research Institute, May, 2014.

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