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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Language and regional differences in evaluations of Medicare managed care by Hispanics

Robert Weech-Maldonado, Marie N Fongwa, Peter Gutierrez, Ron D Hays
Health Services Research 2008, 43 (2): 552-68
18370967

OBJECTIVES: This study uses the Consumer Assessments of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS((R))) survey to examine the experiences of Hispanics enrolled in Medicare managed care. Evaluations of care are examined in relationship to primary language (English or Spanish) and region of the country.

DATA SOURCES: CAHPS 3.0 Medicare managed care survey data collected in 2002.

STUDY DESIGN: The dependent variables consist of five CAHPS multi-item scales measuring timeliness of care, provider communication, office staff helpfulness, getting needed care, and health plan customer service. The main independent variables are Hispanic primary language (English or Spanish) and region (California, Florida, New York/New Jersey, and other states). Ordinary least squares regression is used to model the effect of Hispanic primary language and region on CAHPS scales, controlling for age, gender, education, and self-rated health.

DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: The analytic sample consists of 125,369 respondents (82 percent response rate) enrolled in 181 Medicare managed care plans across the U.S. Of the 125,369 respondents, 8,463 (7 percent) were self-identified as Hispanic. The survey was made available in English and Spanish, and 1,353 Hispanics completed one in Spanish.

PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Hispanic English speakers had less favorable reports of care than whites for all dimensions of care except provider communication. Hispanic Spanish speakers reported more negative experiences than whites with timeliness of care, provider communication, and office staff helpfulness, but better reports of care for getting needed care. Spanish speakers in all regions except Florida had less favorable scores than English-speaking Hispanics for provider communication and office staff helpfulness, but more positive assessments for getting needed care. There were greater regional variations in CAHPS scores among Hispanic Spanish speakers than among Hispanic English speakers. Spanish speakers in Florida had more positive experiences than Spanish speakers in other regions for most dimensions of care.

CONCLUSIONS: Hispanics in Medicare managed care face barriers to care; however, their experiences with care vary by language and region. Spanish speakers (except FL) have less favorable experiences with provider communication and office staff helpfulness than their English-speaking counterparts, suggesting language barriers in the clinical encounter. On the other hand, Spanish speakers reported more favorable experiences than their English-speaking counterparts with the managed care aspects of their care (getting needed care and plan customer service). Medicare managed care plans need to address the observed disparities in patient experiences among Hispanics as part of their quality improvement efforts. Plans can work with their network providers to address issues related to timeliness of care and office staff helpfulness. In addition, plans can provide incentives for language services, which have the potential to improve communication with providers and staff among Spanish speakers. Finally, health plans can reduce the access barriers faced by Hispanics, especially among English speakers.

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