Seventeen percent may be a magic number for life and health insurance agents this year. That’s the slice of the African American population, or about 7.6 million of them, without health insurance based on the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. It’s a big gap that puts this minority at a disadvantage when it comes to securing their health. On the other side of the coin, however, this could spell a significant number of prospects for insurance agents.

Admittedly, this market may be less than ideal. Using data from the survey and the U.S. Census Bureau, a recent infographic published by Finance Online (and reproduced below) paints an alarming scenario. Most of the uninsured Blacks come from the poor and near-poor sectors as defined by the Federal Poverty Threshold. Likewise, the percentage of people who cannot afford health care rose to 6.9% last year. And only about 60% of the Black population is expected to live in good health, compared to nearly 70% for Whites.

However, given an upswing in the economy of late, some segments within the poor and non-poor sectors will likely climb up the income ladder. Plus, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which is set for full implementation by next year, was in part designed to help African-Americans get insurance. 

Key points to watch out

PPACA is designed to help the uninsured, and, many of its provisions help break down traditional barriers set by the insurer. Pitting legislation against the insurance industry may sound self-defeating, but here, marketing 101 should remind you that if you ignore this market, your competitors won’t.

Here are some of the key points in which PPACA will help African-Americans and other poor populations to remain healthy for a longer time:

Elevation of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The Center will be designated as an Institute to give more focus on the health of disadvantaged groups. That means a healthier sector that is less vulnerable to serious claims later in life.

More focus on preventive care. Although plans will be required to do away with deductibles to grant preventive care, in the long run, this means, again, a healthier policyholder who may not need a claim for serious illnesses in the future.

Chronic diseases will be better managed via community health teams. Around 50% of African Americans suffer from one form or another of recurring ailment, so a better managed chronic illness with government assistance means a healthier policyholder.

Strengthening of primary care structure. PPACA aims to reinforce community health centers to provide access to quality care in the neighborhood. In minority communities, the community center can mean the only quality care readily available. Again, this can result in fewer sick policyholders filing a claim.

Keeping tabs on developments affecting this uninsured group may literally mean following the yellow brick road to where they live. The infographic below illustrates where the uninsured African Americans cluster. The west south central states — Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma — have the highest concentration, at 23.6% of the total uninsured Blacks. This cluster is more significant given that the nearby corridor comprising the south Atlantic and east south central states form the next top clusters. 

The uninsured African Americans of our population may be a rough diamond waiting to be tapped by forward-thinking agents, equipped not only with marketing savvy, but also with an appreciation of social change.

 infographic