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Insurance companies are expanding their business into the immigrant community for Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans.

Three Southern California insurers – Clever Care Health Plan, Alliance Health Choice, and SCAN Health Plan – are targeting Asian Americans and other minorities with specific offers, the Los Angeles Times reported on September 25.

“Clever Care Health Plan, based in Huntington Beach, and Alignment Health, based in nearby Orange, both have plans aimed at Asian Americans, with extra benefits including coverage for Eastern medicines and treatments such as cupping and tui na massage,” LA Times said. Plans targeting these ethnic groups are gaining attention because they offer specialty products designed to meet the needs of patients based on their cultural backgrounds and provide easy access to doctors who speak their language.

Clever Care, founded by Korean American healthcare executive Myong Lee, aimed from the start to create Medicare Advantage plans for underserved Asian communities, said Peter Winston, senior vice president and general manager of community and provider development. “When we started enrollments, we realized there is no one ‘Asian,’ but there is Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Japanese,” Winston said.

Clever Healthcare has seen a surge in enrollment of more than 20 times in just over two years.

“Alignment Health offers a plan targeting Asian Americans in six California counties, with benefits such as traditional wellness services, a grocery allowance for Asian stores, nonemergency medical transportation and even pet care in the event a member has a hospital procedure or emergency and needs to be away from home.” The company also has a specific plan for Hispanics called el Único.

Todd Macaluso, the chief growth officer for Alignment, declined to share specific numbers but said California membership in Harmony — its plan tailored to Asian Americans — and el Único together has grown 80% year over year since 2021. For immigrants who don’t speak English, the company provide materials in their language and conduct needs assessments in each region to make sure the company is providing effective plans.

Medicare Advantage plans are characterized by having little to no deductibles and no 20% patient payments. They also offer a variety of ancillary benefits, such as dental, hearing, vision, and gym memberships, which has led to a recent increase in enrollment, although there are some differences among insurers.

“The number of Medicare Advantage enrollees has actually been growing rapidly for the past five to six years,” said David Keum, CEO of Skyline Benefits, a health insurance specialist. “One of the ways that small and medium-sized insurers are trying to compete with larger insurers is by launching ethnic-specific programs to target Koreans, Chinese, and others.”

Of course, there are some people against these ethnic-specific insurance programs.

“It’s strange to think about commodifying and profiting off people’s racial and ethnic identities,” said Naomi Zewde, an assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “We should do so with care and proceed carefully, so as not to be exploitive.”

Medicare, meanwhile, is a federally funded health insurance program for people age 65 and older or with disabilities. Medicare consists of Part A (hospitalization insurance), Part B (medical insurance), and Part D (drug insurance), including Part C, which is an advantage plan.

BY YEOL JANG    [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]