The Sacramento Bee: Early stumbles hamper California’s Latino health care enrollment

By Christopher Cadelago
California has struggled to enroll Latinos in health insurance coverage through its new exchange, spurring waves of criticism from supporters of the law and potentially jeopardizing the program’s long-term success.

Of the 400,000 customers who responded to a question about their ethnicity, fewer than 20 percent identified as Latino, Hispanic or Spanish over three months of enrollment. Just 5.5 percent of customers, roughly 25,000 people, speak primarily Spanish, according to figures provided by the state exchange Tuesday.

Latinos, meanwhile, account for more than half of the state’s 7 million uninsured residents and about 46 percent of state residents eligible for government health care subsidies.

“The numbers just don’t add up,” said Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana. “We cannot make health care insurance affordable and accessible for everyone without filling this void.”

Sanchez and more than a dozen colleagues recently sent a letter to Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee urging him to do more to increase Latino sign-ups, including resolving a shortage of bilingual enrollment counselors in key areas of the state and fixing translation problems on the website.


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