What makes the Latino community so hard to reach and why is it so hard to fight Medicare fraud in the community?
It’s because this is a unique community. There are cultural and linguist challenges that the community faces. Many people in the community have very low levels of education and low levels of health literacy, and they don’t know how to navigate the system and don’t know what to ask. Sometimes they don’t even know there are programs that they can use and many are very trusting. It’s especially difficult for older Latinos who are also low income, because it’s hard for them to turn down something they get for free, even if they’re not supposed to get it.
But it’s not a lost cause. There are some very effective ways to reach the Latino community and it’s all about thinking in terms of two key words: personalization, and partnerships. Older Latino adults don’t want to be talked down to. They want to feel a personal connection with people and they want to be able to trust that the person they are speaking with is giving them the right information.
That’s why is so important to do to where they are: the places of worship, the community centers, the beauty parlors; anywhere that the community happens to be. Go where they are and talk to them. And this is where partnerships are important: a partnership with local community leaders and a partnership with members of the media so that they can help you get to the members of the community, and achieve that most important partnership of all: a partnership with older Latinos.
First of all, the Spanish language itself is not monolithic.
Don’t assume that the words that are spoken in the Latino community in Los Angeles, for instance, are the same as the Latino community in Miami or New York. Cultural competency goes beyond language. It’s not enough to be able to speak the language, but rather requires a good understanding of the community. The same word may mean something completely different depending on where members of the community are from. This is where having a relationship with local community leaders becomes very important.
We can’t go into different communities and say the same thing. We have to be mindful of the differences.
Sure, there are many commonalities, such as the importance of family and working together and we definitely have to build on that, but working with community leaders allows us to work with those who know the community best. Community-based organizations and places of worship are also good places to work with to reach older Latinos. If we explain to them about Medicare fraud and how it affects the community, they will help us. We all care about the community and we can work together to prevent Medicare fraud. Another key partnership is with members of the media.
Both the mainstream media and Latino community are important, but the Spanish-language media is considered part of the community. Older Latino adults look at many members of the Latino community as honest people they respect to give them the news and to help the community. At NHCOA, we have found that inviting a reporter or news anchor to a community event has been very effective. Whenever that happens, we get a lot of people to come and listen, because these members of the media are well known and well respected in the community.
Establishing relationships with members of the Latino media is a very good and very effective way to inform the community about Medicare fraud and why they should care.
Members of the Latino press are a good channel for information. When we work with members of the Latino press, the reporter has a buy-in. This is a community of partnerships, of relationships, of friendships, and if we ask everyone to talk about Medicare fraud prevention, we are creating momentum. If we could get a television news personality to take the flag on Medicare fraud prevention, the campaign would be very successful. Television programs and Spanish-language community newspapers are good outlets, but probably the most effective media outlet in the Latino community is the use of radio, and it’s a medium we don’t use nearly enough.
Radio is a big part of an older Latino’s daily life, and it’s about putting together a PSA and sending it out to stations. It’s about going on local radio programs, talking about the importance of Medicare fraud and giving listeners the opportunity to call-in and ask questions about it. Local radio programs have been a very effective way to reach the community. Whenever we’ve used radio, the phones have been ringing off the hook with people seeking answers. We’ve also found that it’s not a one-shot deal.
Repetition is the name of the game here.
It’s not about going on a radio show and leaving town to never come back, but rather to come on as many times as possible. Repetition, repetition, repetition. A very effective method is finding a news hook. Pay attention to the news. When Medicare scammers are arrested, for instance, that’s a good opportunity to talk about Medicare fraud and show older Latinos why it’s an issue they should care about.
We’ve also found that talking about other topics doesn’t mean that the issue of Medicare fraud won’t come up.
For example, at NHCOA we found that when we talked about the Affordable Care Act when it was rolling out, we had many questions about Medicare. Scammers don’t take a day off, and they were telling Latino seniors that under ACA, they had to change coverage, which is not true and that was causing a lot of confusion. By talking about ACA, we were able to clear up a lot of questions older Latinos had about Medicare and Medicare fraud. It’s also a good idea not to forget that because family is so important in the Latino community, making sure the message of Medicare fraud reaches members of an older Latino’s family is very important.
Additionally, making sure to include caregivers in any messaging is also essential, as it is oftentimes the caregivers who are making decisions for the older Latinos. When you create partnerships with community leaders, community-based organizations and members of the media, you create an effective way to talk to older Latinos, their families, and caregivers about Medicare fraud in a caring, respectful way and they feel they have a stake in the issue and would help make sure it doesn’t happen to them.