In order to get Hispanic older adults to report Medicare fraud, we must first be able to reach them effectively. Detection is the best way for seniors to protect themselves from scams and fraud. This is why breaking away at, and tearing down barriers, that prevent them from receiving reliable, trustworthy information regarding Medicare fraud is key.
Here is a look at 5 common challenges or barriers to conducting effective Medicare fraud outreach among Hispanic older adults and tips to address each one.
Most Hispanic older adults speak more Spanish than English. They rely on their children, grandchildren, or friends to understand documents or other information they may encounter on a daily basis. The inability to fully understand causes many to feel frustrated and give up. While Latino seniors may be more comfortable speaking Spanish, they may encounter difficulties reading and writing. This is due to low levels of education and the reliance on jargon, slang and “Spanglish” (the combined usage of Spanish and English words to communicate). Therefore, even if the information is written in Spanish, many might have a hard time understanding certain wording and phrases they are not familiar with.
Reaching Hispanic older adults through a variety of culturally and linguistically appropriate communication channels is critical to eliminate the language barrier (i.e., local Spanish language radio PSAs, local Spanish language TV interviews).
The propagation of myths within the community is frequent and wide-scaled, ranging from old wives tales to urban legends. Older adults, who are mostly homebound and have little contact with the outside world, are especially susceptible to blending facts and information with myths and taboos. And, even if they receive correct information, it can be difficult and confusing to retain. As we age, being introduced to new concepts and facts can be overwhelming, especially topics such as Medicare, which is complex in nature.
Constant reinforcement is key to fighting misinformation and is best achieved through one-on-one and group discussions in culturally and linguistically appropriate settings (i.e., community centers and places of worship).
Difficulty Navigating the Medicare System
These days technology plays a big role in our healthcare system, especially the enrollment process. For an older adult who is used to handwritten paperwork and face-to-face interaction, it is difficult — and seemingly impossible to them— to use the internet and virtual assistance to process an application, enroll or report fraud. While online services are great and helpful to many, Latino seniors are a generation behind in terms of technology and access.
For Hispanic older adults to use the Internet to access and manage their Medicare accounts, in-person bilingual assistance is critical.
Seniors may not always go to a senior center or community center. In fact, if they do not have caregivers or family to take them, or go with them. They may not leave their home at all. As they reach their golden years, most of them stop driving and cannot walk, bike, or take public transportation as easily as when they were younger. This causes isolation and for the most part prevents them from receiving valuable information about Medicare and Medicare fraud. Even when they attend a senior center or community center, most times the seniors do not have the opportunity to attend informative events or fairs due to lack of transportation.
Sending culturally sensitive bilingual volunteers to make home visits or go to places Hispanic older adults frequent (places of worship, grocery stores, etc) can help bridge the isolation gap many Latino seniors experience as they age.
The National Hispanic SMP (NHSMP), an off-shoot of the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) initiative, is the only Medicare fraud prevention program that uses culturally and linguistically appropriate tools and resources to close the gap in Medicare fraud education among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. The NHSMP program was launched in Rio Grande Valley, Texas in 2005 and expanded into southern Florida in mid-2011. NHSMP also provides technical assistance to organizations working with older adult populations, so they can more effectively expand their reach to Hispanic seniors, while meeting the demands of our increasingly diverse older adult population.