California Strives To Enroll Filipino Immigrants in Exchange Plans

A lack of funding and other resources is hindering efforts to enroll uninsured Filipino immigrants in health insurance through Covered California, the state health insurance exchange, Peninsula Press/KQED's "State of Health" reports.

The Filipino community is the largest group of Asian immigrants in California, according to Peninsula Press/"State of Health."

Details of Barriers

Sarah Gonzalez, executive director of the Filipino Youth Coalition in the Bay Area, said, "There's a lot of work to be done" related to educating Filipinos about the exchange, adding, "We get so many calls to make presentations, and we can only do so much. The resources are so limited."

Gonzalez said that the group's outreach events so far have had an "awesome" response from the Filipino community.

However, FYC has received only a small grant to support its education efforts, and advocates say the funding is not adequate to pay for outreach over the next five months.

Iyanrick John, senior policy analyst at the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, said that it is especially hard to reach older and first-generation Filipino immigrants with information about the exchange because they prefer to receive assistance in-person or through ethnic media.

According to Peninsula Health/"State of Health," exchange enrollment counselors also have had trouble answering some immigrants' questions about the ACA -- including inquiries about coverage for undocumented immigrants' children and subsidy classifications -- even after undergoing a mandatory three-day training session.

Many counselors are attending information webinars regularly hosted by Covered California to gain more knowledge about the law.

Planned Outreach

In order to reach more uninsured, documented immigrants, Covered California is focusing on an outreach campaign to reach state residents in their native language, including Tagalog, the primary Filipino dialect.

Peter Lee, executive director of the exchange, in a release said, "Reaching out to communities with culturally-sensitive information delivered in their languages will be vital to our mission of expanding health care coverage in this state."

The exchange has posted advertisements about the marketplace on YouTube in several Asian languages, but awareness of such resources remains low, with only 145 views of the Tagalog version nine days after it went online.

This month, the exchange is distributing print advertisements in English, Tagalog and a mix of the two languages in an effort to reach the Filipino immigrant community. Exchange officials also say that they plan to expand outdoor advertisements, including billboards and transit signs (Ochavillo, "State of Health," Peninsula Press/KQED, 11/12).

Robert B. Livingston
The statement by the Peninsula Press that "The Filipino community is the largest group of Asian immigrants in California", is certainly questionable. It is perhaps the largest self-identifier in the Census, but that would include many who were born here. Of recent immigrants, Filipinos would be substantially less than recent Chinese immigrants. Most Filipino-Americans, including most recent immigrants use English except among friends and family, and (I am guessing) usually prefer it over Tagalog or dialect if given a choice. I find nothing wrong with giving people a choice or courteous outreach. What I hope most is that all people in California, whatever their origin or immigration status-- can access excellent health care when they need it and not be driven into penury when they get it. All hospitals should have staff who reflect our state's demographics and are able to communicate with patients in their colloquial tongue when needed.

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