California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Asians Enrolling in Covered Calif. Plans at ‘Surprising’ Rate

As of the end of February, individuals who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander accounted for 23.1% of enrollees in Covered California health plans, even though they make up just 13.1% of the state's population, according to data from researchers at UCLA and the UC-Berkeley Labor Center, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Seipel, San Jose Mercury News, 3/23).

Details of Asian Enrollment

Slightly more than 160,000 Asian individuals have enrolled in coverage through the state insurance exchange, out of a total of 370,000 who are eligible to do so, according to the data.

Meanwhile, the majority of Asian enrollees selected health plans through certified insurance brokers instead of through community groups or the exchange website. Specifically, the data showed that:

  • 70% of Korean enrollees selected plans through brokers;
  • 65% of Vietnamese enrollees selected plans through brokers; and
  • 57% of Chinese enrollees selected plans through brokers.

However, only about 15% of brokers speak an Asian language, according to KQED's "State of Health."

Observers have noted that Asian enrollment through the exchange has been more successful than Latino enrollment. According to experts, there are several reasons for the disparity, including that Asian individuals:

  • Are more familiar with health insurance as a product (Aliferis, "State of Health," KQED, 3/23);
  • Tend to have higher education and income levels;
  • Are more comfortable and more familiar with using government services; and
  • Generally are less fearful of interacting with the government in households with mixed immigration statuses.

In addition, outreach has been more widespread and better coordinated with Asian community groups across the state, according to the Mercury News.


Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC-Berkeley Labor Center, said high enrollment among the Asian population in California was "surprising" (San Jose Mercury News, 3/23).

Wendy McAnelly, a public information officer for Covered California, said the data suggest that insurance brokers serving Asian communities "are a driving force" in the exchange's enrollment goals for that population.

However, Doreena Wong -- director of the health access project for Asian Americans Advancing Justice -- said certain Asian immigrant sub-groups could be harder to reach, including individuals from:

  • Cambodia;
  • India; and
  • Pakistan ("State of Health," KQED, 3/23).
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