Research and Creative Projects

  • Miranda Staley

Miranda Staley ’22

Difficulties Obtaining Medical Insurance and Care in the U.S.

The Research

My research consisted of working at an insurance brokerage that dealt with enrolling existing Medicare clients into Medicare Advantage plans. Insurance brokers basically have two jobs: to enroll clients into insurance plans and to act as a negotiator with insurance companies on behalf of their clients. My goal was to observe the inner workings of a brokerage and see how reality compares to what I have learned in some of my classes.

The Impact

I found that most agents and fronters working at this company spoke only English; a handful spoke Spanish in addition to English. The lack of diversity led to fronters (whose job it is to connect clients to agents) immediately hanging up on potential clients who either didn’t speak English or spoke English as a second language. Non-English speakers were the first demographic that I noticed did not receive the same access to insurance enrollment. The second group that had a similar problem were those experiencing homelessness because to enroll in most insurance plans there needs to be a mailing address. Additionally, the enrollment process includes voice-recognition signatures which requires the use of a smart phone, something many people experiencing homelessness do not have access to. The final group that I noticed facing difficulties were women. Most agents were men, and women tend to feel more comfortable speaking to other women about medical issues, especially when it comes to feminine issues. This led to many potential clients backing out of the enrollment process. Furthermore, insurance plans tend to be catered to men; for example, the company could not enroll a particular woman in a plan that would help cover the cost of removing an IUD because there weren’t any plans in her area that covered anything regarding birth control.

The Takeaway

These three groups face a lot more difficulties enrolling in the correct plans for their specific needs because of numerous institutionalized issues. This has made me more aware of how institutions are catered to a specific demographic; Hopefully, I can help expand access to affordable and acceptable healthcare in the future.