Obamacare Not Reaching Latinos in Calif.

by Sterling Beard

Fewer than 1,000 Latinos signed up for Obamacare in California in the law’s first month, about 3 percent of the state’s 31,000 enrollees.

That’s an alarming number for a state where Latinos make up approximately 60 percent of the uninsured population, and it comes in spite of nonprofits and Covered California, the state’s health-care exchange, spending millions on advertising and outreach to Latinos.

Such efforts don’t appear to be getting it done; there are simply too many other hurdles to enrolling Spanish-speakers. The Spanish-language version of the Covered California website has asked security questions in English and misspelled Spanish words like “si” (“sí” is Spanish for “yes,” but “si” means “if”), according to Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of The California Endowement, a philanthropy organization making efforts to enroll Latinos.

Calling the exchange’s hotline is unlikely to help Latinos, either; the telephone system has given English prompts to Spanish-speakers. It lacks enough bilingual operators and the average wait-time is 18 minutes, as well. If Latinos don’t want to apply over the phone or Internet, they’re in a jam; Spanish paper applications won’t be available until mid-December.

Democratic state senator Norma Torres called the current enrollment numbers “completely unacceptable” and said that new strategies are needed to reach Latinos. Otherwise, she warned, the health-care exchange’s ability to offer affordable insurance could be jeopardized.

Ed Hernandez, her fellow state senator and the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, had a similar diagnosis.

“[Enrollment] needs to be ramped up very quickly,” Hernandez said, warning that failure to do so would mean that Latino signups would “be a huge issue.”

Though more people are reported to have enrolled in November, a demographic breakdown of the figures will not be available until the middle of the month. 

Via Kaiser Health News.

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