Covered Calif. Latino Enrollment Efforts Flawed, Observers Say
Observers say Covered California's efforts to enroll Latino residents in health coverage under the Affordable Care Act have been flawed and fallen short of state goals, the Los Angeles Times' "Money & Co." reports (Karlamangla/Terhune, "Money & Co.," Los Angeles Times, 2/14).
Background on Low Enrollment Among Latinos
More than half of the state's uninsured population is Latino, and 46% of those eligible for government subsidies are Latino. However, 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 last month by the exchange.
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, 1/22).
Criticism of Outreach Efforts
Observers say Covered California has not properly targeted Latino consumers through its outreach campaigns.
For example, Bessie Ramirez -- with the Hispanic market research firm Santiago Solutions Group -- said that the exchange's television advertisements offer only a Web address even though many Latinos prefer to "transact on a personal basis."
In addition, Ramirez said that ads touting the law's inability to deny a person coverage based on pre-existing conditions does not resonate with Latinos because many Latinos have never even considered having health insurance.
Other ads released by the exchange have not been culturally relevant to the Hispanic community, according to KQED's "The California Report."
For instance, one ad that states, "Welcome to a new state of health. Welcome to Covered California," does not have as much meaning when translated to Spanish.
Roberto Orci, CEO of Acento Advertising, said, "To say we're in a new state of health for California, it's grammatically correct to translate it literally, but it doesn't have the same nuance or cuteness that it does in English" (Dembosky, "The California Report," KQED, 2/17).
Many Hispanic consumers also do not understand the ads' message that they could be eligible for federal subsidies or Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program (Dembosky, "The California Report," KQED, 2/18).
Covered California Response
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said the exchange has not "done a good enough job yet" at reaching the Latino community. He added, "Relative to our ambitions and our aspirations, we don't stack up well enough yet, and so we're going to be doubling down" on outreach efforts.
The exchange has said it will spend $8 million during the first three months of this year on an ad campaign targeting potential Latino enrollees ("The California Report," KQED, 2/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.