By Jeanne De Amicis Stitt

Vice President, Marketing

In order to secure resources to better focus on the multicultural marketplace, a company must show quantifiable return on investment. It is more than fostering a diverse work force and adapting to diverse and changing market demographics. During annual and quarterly resource allocation and priority processes, the question of a quantifiable return on investment is inevitable.

At UnitedHealthcare, we have teams of multicultural professionals dedicated to achieving growth by expanding our business among diverse communities and companies with multicultural employees. Our multicultural initiatives—Generations of Wellness (African American), Latino Health Solutions and Asian American Markets—lead the organization to create a regional and national portfolio of culturally and linguistically appropriate health care benefit plans and health management/wellness tools. In addition, these teams develop and test pilot programs to gauge a product’s appeal to multicultural populations and its potential return on investment. Once a pilot achieves quantifiable success, we launch the program nationally or in strategic demographic locations.

One example of a multicultural product with a positive ROI is Latino health Solutions’ PlanBienSM, a health benefit plan designed to address the cultural, language, and health care needs of the growing Hispanic population. Given that our Hispanic membership is significant and growing, it is a business imperative for us to build upon our loyal and expanding client base by serving our customers in-culture and with bilingual excellence. This is also key to our approach in addressing and helping to reduce health disparities among Hispanics.

Studies indicate that communication and cultural barriers are key contributors to health disparities. Though some hispanics may speak English on the job, many live in Spanish-speaking households and prefer to communicate in Spanish outside of work. The tendency to revert to Spanish is even stronger when discussing complex issues such as one’s health and health insurance coverage. this natural inclination to want to talk, listen, and read in one’s native tongue can create a significant obstacle for employers, health care providers, and health insurance carriers when attempting to communicate with Hispanics about available plans and policies. PlanBien provides a bilingual “connection” at almost every interface between the customer and UnitedHealthcare. Extensive cultural competency training across the organization has accompanied this effort.

PlanBien was introduced in the South Florida market in a pilot program to demonstrate proof-of-concept and to measure the financial return. Measurable financial success in this market enabled us to secure the support, prioritization, and resources to expand into additional markets, including California, texas, Arizona and Colorado—states with significant hispanic populations. The success of PlanBien and other multicultural programs have enabled us to obtain additional resources to enhance existing programs, create new ones, and further expand our reach into the multicultural marketplace.

Cultural and ethnic diversity within the U.S. population is increasing every day. As such it is imperative to build upon our commitment to reach out to multicultural populations through culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate programs that enhance the health and well-being of multicultural communities—programs that are market-driven and financially sustainable in order to achieve a successful return on investment. Therefore, expanding health care coverage among diverse populations requires insurance companies to design products and services that meet and address cultural preferences to ensure customers realize the full benefits of their health insurance coverage and to provide them with tools and resources that help them to enhance their overall well-being and live healthier lives. In doing so, a quantifiable return on investment is inevitable, in more ways than one can imagine.