WellPoint works with physicians, providers, and others to improve care for all

By Teresa Fausey

With the arrival of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of Americans have full access to the health care system for the first time. This is especially true for many of the country’s ethnic communities, including more than 10 million Hispanics.

Although studies show that this group is open to—even happy about—gaining access to care, there are barriers to overcome—for patients, physicians, insurers, and others concerned with the delivery of high-quality health care.

Through a variety of outreach efforts, including focus groups, five major positive and negative drivers—dubbed the “5 F’s”—that determine whether members of Hispanic communities engage with the health care system were identified.

  1. Food: Favored everyday foods may be less than ideal for maintaining good health
  2. Family: The desire to “be there” for children and grandchildren tends to motivate patients to make lifestyle and dietary changes, and to seek preventive care
  3. Faith & Spirituality: As a result of a strong, shared belief system, members of this community have a great reverence for life and see it as a gift; and faith-based entities are seen as trusted sources of information
  4. Fear: The fear of worst-case-scenario disease complications or adverse outcomes resulting from treatments keeps many patients from seeking the help they need
  5. Finances: The cost of items like higher quality foods, gym memberships, medical products, and health care co-pays keeps many patients from taking actions that could improve their health

Identifying the “5 F’s” and understanding how language barriers, attitudes about the human body, rules governing interactions between people of the opposite sex, and traditional beliefs about illness and cures may create challenges. So WellPoint, and the health care industry, set about finding ways to help Hispanics and other groups navigate and learn to trust the health care system, understand the value of a healthier diet and regular exercise, take advantage of preventive care opportunities, and live happier, healthier lives.

No one has been more involved in this process than Antonio P. Linares, MD, FAAFP, and regional vice president and medical director for WellPoint. Dr. Linares provides medical leadership in patient-care management and population-based care, including health promotion strategies for large employers. Over the past 20 years, while serving in various leadership positions, Dr. Linares has been a strong advocate for primary care for underserved populations, and offered expert testimony before Congress regarding the impact of diabetes and health disparities on the Hispanic community. Needless to say, finding ways to better serve the Hispanic patient population is a top priority for this health care leader.

“Although the ACA helps members of Hispanic communities obtain insurance so they can access health care services,” says Dr. Linares, “It’s up to insurers and providers to offer information in Spanish, educate patients regarding preventive care, treat patients in culturally sensitive ways, reach out to leaders in Hispanic communities around the country, and create partnerships to meet the needs of this new health care demographic.”

Salud Es Vida
As part of an outreach effort aimed at new health care consumers in the Hispanic community, WellPoint, Inc., Univision Communications Inc., and HolaDoctor joined together to provide a multimedia experience that explains to these new health care consumers how to access resources, encourages them to engage with insurers and health care providers, and educates them about health issues. The initiative uses television and radio segments, e-newsletters, and town halls to help consumers learn about options under the new law. And the Salud Es Vida section of Univision.com, presented in collaboration with HolaDoctor.com, is a source of culturally intelligent, patient-centered medical information in Spanish that educates and empowers these new health care consumers.

Although the Affordable Care Act, along with the work of insurers, providers, and nonprofit organizations, has helped improve access and care for Hispanic patients, there is much to be done to erase health disparities for this and other ethnic populations in the U.S. “Even though we have increased health coverage,” says Dr. Linares, “the health disparities problem continues, and we need to continue to find ways to address it.”

Meet a True Health Equity Leader
As regional vice president and medical director for WellPoint, Dr. Linares provides leadership in patient care management and population-based care, including health promotion strategies for large employers. Over the past 20 years, he has served in a variety of leadership positions and been a strong advocate for primary care for underserved populations. Dr. Linares appeared before Congress in 1992, offering expert testimony regarding the impact of diabetes and health disparities on the Hispanic community. And today, he is on the board of directors of the National Hispanic Medical Association—a strong advocacy organization that promotes increased access and quality of care for all Hispanics.

An adjunct instructor at Stanford School of Medicine’s Centers for Health Policy and Primary Care Outcomes Research, Dr. Linares completed a residency in family practice at University of California’s UC Davis Medical Center and earned his medical degree at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.