Eugenia Gonzalez’s passion for helping underserved Hispanic communities access critical Medicare coverage options and improve their health grew out of experience.
A native of Puerto Rico, Gonzalez’s interest in Medicare developed because of two things — her introduction to the government program at Triple S, the island’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan, and the lack of drug coverage her grandmother’s Medicare plan provided as she battled a serious illness. Those events led Gonzalez to a career at Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), where she has helped execute a vision to improve and expand Medicare Advantage options to include dental, vision and prescription drug coverage and increase their accessibility.
“I think about what would have made health care better for my grandmother,” says Gonzalez, who left Puerto Rico in 2015 to join HCSC. “That experience helped me understand what Medicare Advantage needed to include.”
As HCSC’s divisional vice president of Medicare Solutions, Gonzalez has been instrumental in expanding Medicare Advantage coverage options to as many as 1.1 million Medicare-eligible people in more than 150 counties across Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas in 2023, focusing on providing care access in rural and underserved areas.
“We are helping our Hispanic members understand our products and make them feel like we can relate to them,” says Gonzalez, who has overseen an initiative to increase Hispanic outreach and make Medicare Advantage products more inclusive. “We want to help them find a doctor who speaks their language.”
Earlier this year, she launched a plan to produce Spanish-language Medicare Advantage materials, including more authentic images collected during an Albuquerque photo shoot Gonzalez helped arrange.
“This has been a passion project of mine ever since I came here,” Gonzalez says. “This has allowed me to build Medicare Advantage programs looking from a different lens.”
She believes the model she helped create can be replicated to expand membership among Chicago’s large Polish community, for example, as well in Asian communities in Illinois and Texas. Gonzalez appreciates the opportunity Nathan Linsley, HCSC senior vice president of government and individual markets, and Christine Kourouklis, HCSC Medicare president, have given her to increase the company’s Medicare membership.
That outreach is vital to improving access, Kourouklis says.
“It’s important that we are able to connect with and serve all members of our states and that our message continues to resonate with them,” she says. “Eugenia's priority has always been expanding access to care and connecting with our Spanish-speaking members. With 18% of our Medicare beneficiaries being Spanish speakers, I'm proud of Eugenia's dedication to serving our Hispanic members.”
Support from leaders energizes Gonzalez as she continues to look for opportunities to help improve Medicare members’ health outcomes while pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She’s flourished from the encouragement and mentorship she’s received throughout her journey starting as a beauty salon administrative assistant and manager in Puerto Rico to overseeing Medicare product development and quality improvement programs at the nation’s largest customer-owned insurer.
In return, Gonzalez tries to assist younger Hispanic employees embrace their culture and values as they develop in their careers.
“Be yourself, stay your course, don’t be afraid to shine and don’t stay quiet,” she advises. “Say what needs to be said with respect so others know what you’re thinking, feeling and doing.”