Latinos Make Up Fewer Than 20% of Covered California Enrollees

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Of the nearly 400,000 Covered California enrollees who listed their ethnicity, fewer than 20% identified themselves as Latino, Hispanic or Spanish, according to data released Tuesday by the exchange, the Sacramento Bee reports (Cadelago, Sacramento Bee, 1/22).

The rate increased to 30% when looking at those who applied but have not yet enrolled (Sisson, U-T San Diego, 1/21).

Meanwhile, about 5.5% of total exchange enrollees -- or 25,000 individuals -- primarily speak Spanish.

Background

More than half of the state's uninsured population is Latino, and 46% of those eligible for government subsidies are Latino (Sacramento Bee, 1/22).

Latinos are seen as being key to the success of the Affordable Care Act. Many Latinos are uninsured, and they pose a lower financial risk because they typically are younger and healthier than other uninsured residents.

Reasons for Low Enrollment Among Latinos

Covered California has had a functioning Spanish language website since open enrollment began on Oct. 1, 2013, but many Latinos have had trouble accessing the site because they lack the resources to do so, such as Internet service or a smartphone.

Exchange officials have offered several additional reasons for low enrollment among Latinos, including:

  • A shortage of Spanish-speaking enrollment counselors; and
  • A lack of paper applications in Spanish.

In addition, Latinos who live in households with undocumented relatives are concerned that signing up for a government-run program could lead to unwanted scrutiny (California Healthline, 1/3).

Reaction

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said the exchange should focus on "better response times on the phone, a Spanish-language website that is up and working and getting enrollment counselors in [Latino] communities".

Covered California Director Peter Lee said, "[I]t's a longer educational process" for many uninsured Latinos who have not had experience with health insurance before. He noted that reaching out to communities via "in-person enrollment" will be critical (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 1/21).

Lee added, "We have much work to do over the next three months to build on our outreach to this important population and help those who have applied complete the process" (Young, CQ HealthBeat, 1/21).

Campaign To Boost Latino Enrollment

According to the Los Angeles Times, the exchange recently sent nearly one million mailings to Spanish-speaking residences as part of a ramped up outreach effort (Los Angeles Times, 1/21).

For more coverage of Covered California's enrollment data, see today's "Capitol Desk."

James Roache PharmD
While I agree with the author's conclusions, I also believe the author has overlooked two key points. The first, many Latino homes have undocumented persons living there as well and fear any additional government contact may put these individuals at risk of deportation. Secondly, why upset an already functioning program, i.e. if you get sick, go to the emergency room and be treated or admitted for free. So far as the failure of Covered CA to not provide enough Spanish language applications at the onset is pure and simple negligence considering the millions upon millions of dollars in grants they were awarded over three years ago. If this is an indicator of the competency of the program's administration, then indeed, the program is already in trouble .

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