LA Times: California health exchange faulted for not reaching out more to Latinos


Sanchez Enroll OCU.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) encourages Orange County residents to sign up for health coverage Thursday before enrollment ends March 31 under the Affordable Care Act. (Soumya Karlamangla / Los Angeles Times / February 13, 2014)
By Soumya Karlamangla and Chad TerhuneSome California politicians are turning up the heat on the state’s health insurance exchange to boost Latino enrollment in Obamacare before a March deadline.

U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana) held a sign-up event Thursday in Orange County and prodded the Covered California exchange to do more to reach the area’s large population of uninsured.

Statewide, about 1.2 million, or 46%, of the 2.6 million Californians eligible for federal premium subsidies under the healthcare law are Latino. But Covered California said only 20% of enrollees through December described themselves as Latino on their application.

“We’ve been disappointed with the Latino numbers and with Covered California,” Sanchez said. “I think we are starting to turn it around.”

The exchange is expected to release updated enrollment figures next week.

Critics have faulted the state exchange for a shortage of enrollment counselors in the field, translation glitches on its Spanish-language website and for not publishing a paper application in Spanish until late December.

Backers of the healthcare law also worry that some Latinos are fearful of signing up because members of their family entered the country illegally. Exchange officials have tried to assure people that no application information is shared with immigration authorities.

Covered California is boosting its marketing to Latinos and hiring more bilingual employees before open enrollment ends March 31.

At the opening of Thursday’s event in Santa Ana, Sanchez praised Covered California’s executive director, Peter Lee, for his work launching the state marketplace.

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