California keeps signing up people for Obamacare policies at a rapid clip, but the state’s struggle to reach uninsured Latinos is drawing more criticism.
The Covered California exchange said Tuesday that more than 625,000 people have enrolled statewide in health plans through Jan. 15 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Even though enrollment opened in October, more than 500,000 of those enrollees signed up in just the last six weeks.
That surge in volume has often overwhelmed the state exchange and many of its participating health plans. Covered California said 40% of enrollees surveyed said the sign-up process was “difficult,” and the average wait time at the state’s call centers hit 49 minutes this month.
Supporters of the healthcare law say those broader service issues are hampering enrollment among Latinos, who are expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries of President Obama’s signature law.
An estimated 1.2 million, or 46%, of the 2.6 million Californians eligible for federal premium subsidies are Latino. But Covered California said only 20% of enrollees through the end of December described themselves as Latino on their application.
“Latino enrollment is still falling short given how big a share of the uninsured they are in California,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. “Without reaching Latinos in large numbers, it’s hard to reach the enrollment goals overall. It also means people are going without benefits they are eligible for.”. . .