Most of us are already all too aware that Spanish speakers are underinsured and have less access as a group to quality health care. Numerous studies both on statewide and national levels have found that Hispanics are less likely to have health insurance than most other groups. Of course, on one level, these reports reflect very unfortunate social conditions. However, in this tight economy, when securing new business is increasingly competitive, insurance salespeople who do not treat these reports as an opportunity are shooting themselves in the foot.

Still, insurance professionals who do not speak Spanish struggle with how best to gain access to this tremendous market. Many will bemoan the fact that, even when sales material and enrollment forms are translated into Spanish, this community tends not to participate — even when an employer has offered a fairly generous contribution toward premiums. While this is often the case, it is not a reason to throw in the towel. It is true that many Spanish speakers cannot afford health insurance, but many others simply do not see it as a priority. This tendency can be reversed, but it requires a lot more than translation. It requires education.

If a Spanish speaker is a janitorial worker earning minimum wage, then, unless her employer covers 100 percent of the premium, she probably cannot afford health insurance. However, many Spanish speakers are skilled laborers earning $20-$25 per hour or more in construction or other trades. These individuals can consider buying their own home or owning a more valuable vehicle. They place an extremely high value on building financial stability and investing in the future of their children, but they are unaware of what a crucial role health insurance plays in this process.

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