California Failing to Enroll Latinos in Obamacare

The Democrats' attempt to use the Affordable Care Act to win over Latino voters across the country continues to backfire. California officials tell The New York Times that the "No. 1 priority" of the state healthcare exchange, to sign up Latin Americans, has been a less than successful effort.

The Times noted Thursday that the new figures out of California do show an uptick in the number of people enrolled in private insurance, thanks to the state healthcare exchange set up to ease the burden on the woefully unusable HealthCare.gov. The numbers have been lower than expected, however, when it comes to Latin Americans, who have been targeted as a key group for high sign-ups given the high rates of uninsured among the Latino population. While Latino enrollment has increased to 21% from 18% at the end of last year, those in charge of the exchange still appear dissatisfied. Latinos make up more than half of California's uninsured population, according to estimates by the California Health Care Almanac.

The New York Times appears to place the blame on Latinos themselves, with a headline blaring that Latinos are "lagging" behind the rest of California in signing up, but the onus appears to be on both the federal government and California. A quick read of just how badly California botched the rollout of the Spanish-language exchange and how little they have done to incorporate Latinos in the ACA implementation proves the government is far more to blame. The Times notes that Covered California, the state version of HealthCare.gov, "did not offer applications in Spanish until the end of December, and a Spanish-language site was dogged by translation errors." Surprisingly, this did not yield the turnout among Latinos they were expecting. 

The executive director of the program, Peter Lee, admits that the program was not "executed perfectly," despite claiming that "Latino enrollment has been probably the No. 1 priority of Covered California." Lee told the Times last week that the program intends to "double down" on courting Latinos.

On a national scale, the White House has always made clear that the ACA was intended to help woo Latinos to the Democratic Party. From the beginning of the launch of Obamacare, Democrats in California targeted Latino neighborhoods, businesses, and events to visit so they could promote the new program. Latino women in particular were targeted; California Health Collaborative received almost $1 million from Covered California to target uninsured women. 

In many ways, the substandard effort on the part of the California state healthcare exchange echoes the many failings of HealthCare.gov in the Latino community. After being delayed for weeks, the incomplete version of CuidadodeSalud.gov that was published was an embarrassment, with many Spanish speakers having difficulty understanding much of the site's text because of the woefully incorrect grammar. The attempt to court Spanish-speaking Latinos failed so miserably that it only helped to emphasize the many ways the Affordable Care Act, despite being directly marketed to this target population, could disproportionately hurt them by limiting doctor choices and certain types of coverage.


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