Covered California Must Step Up Latino Outreach, Advocates Say
Advocates say that Covered California needs to improve its outreach efforts to Latino communities across the state ahead of the health insurance exchange's second open enrollment period, which begins on Nov. 15, HealthyCal reports (Kritz, HealthyCal, 8/20).
A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 3.4 million previously uninsured Californians were enrolled in health coverage after the first open enrollment period. The survey also found that Latino enrollment in California was higher than expected, with 61% of eligible Latinos gaining insurance.
However, 42% of California residents who were uninsured before the open enrollment period remained without coverage afterward. About 30% of those in the state who remained uninsured are undocumented immigrants.
Survey respondents reported several barriers to enrolling in coverage, including:
- Concerns about bringing undue attention to the immigration status of family members;
- Difficulty comparing the costs and features of plans through Covered California's website;
- Difficulty determining how to sign up for Medi-Cal and subsidies; and
- High costs (California Healthline, 7/30).
Details of Concerns
Latino advocates have voiced several concerns about Covered California's efforts to reach the Latino community about enrolling in health coverage.
Sonya Vasquez, policy director at the Community Health Councils of Los Angeles, said, "Fact sheets in Spanish only became available this month and events, such as bilingual information sessions, were often not well publicized" during the first open enrollment period. In addition, she voiced concerns about an inadequate number of bilingual navigators to assist Spanish-speaking consumers.
Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, said outreach often would end after one attempt to contact a Latino individual, adding, "The target [Latino] population does not trust the government system and as a result will need multiple contacts before they finally enroll." He said contact attempts should include emails, in-person discussions, mailed materials, phone calls and videos.
Morales also noted that many Latino individuals are hesitant to enroll in coverage because of concerns about family members who are undocumented residents. He said, "Examples of mixed-status families successfully enrolling eligible members will go a long way to decrease [that] fear."
Covered California's Response
Dana Howard, deputy communications director for the exchange, said officials have considered complaints from Latino advocates about the first open enrollment period and are making changes.
Covered California has budgeted more than $100 million for Latino outreach.
He said the exchange plans to launch an enrollment campaign in September targeting the Latino population and will air videos this fall depicting successful Latino enrollment stories. In addition, the exchange is working to increase the number of bilingual navigators available in-person and through call centers.
Exchange spokesperson James Scullary said, "Reaching the Latino population remains one of Covered California's top priorities," adding, "We're once again preparing a multi-prong approach to make sure we reach those communities" (HealthyCal, 8/20).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.