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Race, Ethnicity and Preferred Language Survey Helps Address Health Disparities

July 3, 2012

Recent studies show that some members of racial and ethnic groups may experience a lower quality of health services.* They may be less likely to receive certain routine medical procedures, and they may have higher rates of sickness and death than others.

When UnitedHealthcare knows more about your clients’ employees, we can do more to meet their health needs with tailored programs and services. For example, we can ensure that our materials are linguistically appropriate, and can also adapt products and services for specific populations (i.e., Asian, Hispanic and African-American), including culturally sensitive educational kiosks, bilingual customer service support, translated communications and a mobile website.

Last September, UnitedHealthcare launched a voluntary Race, Ethnicity and Preferred Language (REL) Survey to help better serve the health needs of all our members. While data collection is underway, we are continuing to ask members to consider providing information that will help us combat some of the disparities in health care.

Throughout August, September and October, UnitedHealthcare is offering a $25 gift card incentive to the first 150 members who visit and complete the voluntary survey. Within four weeks of completing the survey, members will receive an email from UnitedHealthcare/Hallmark Business Connections (the gift card vendor) with instructions on how to redeem the gift card. They will then be able to choose a $25 gift card from one of more than 100 national retailers, or $10 and $15 gift cards from two retailers on the same list.

Any information provided is kept confidential and will not affect eligibility for benefits, coverage, claims or payments made to providers for services. If members choose not to answer, that choice also won't affect eligibility for benefits, coverage, claims or payments.

Here are a few reminders.

What is REL?

REL is race, ethnicity and preferred language. Collecting race, ethnicity and preferred language information supports our mission to promote health equity, address disparities, improve quality of care and meet the needs of diverse multicultural populations.

How will REL be used?

This information helps us:

  • Detect and reduce disparities care;
  • Ensure members receive appropriate benefits, and high-quality services and programs; and
  • Provide members more culturally and linguistically appropriate programs and services, where available.

The information from the voluntary survey is confidential and will not affect insurance coverage, how much employees pay, or how we pay claims. We will ask members to use the REL self-assessment tool, which is housed through our member portal, The tool allows members to voluntarily provide and update their own race, ethnicity and language information at a time when it is convenient for them. We may also ask members to provide or confirm REL information during customer service calls or during care management interactions.

What about privacy?

We invite members to voluntarily provide their REL preferences, but they are not required to do so. Additionally, employers were given the opportunity to opt out of the survey being displayed on If an employee chooses not to provide this information, it will not affect their coverage, how much they pay, or how we pay their claims. If a member does answer the survey, any survey answers are confidential, and we are obligated by law to protect them like all personal health information. We will not use this information to make decisions about health care premiums, coverage for services or claims.

What is gained?

Collecting race, ethnicity and preferred language information will help us provide more personalized care and health care materials for your diverse workforce. This is a fundamental step in identifying the populations that are most at risk and working to remove these disparities.

*Eliminating Health Disparities; American Medical Association. Accessed July 2011.