California’s health care exchange released data on Tuesday showing that the program is lagging behind in enrolling Latinos. Through the end of 2013, 500,108 Californians enrolled in health insurance plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, only 20% of those who enrolled who identified their ethnicity indicated that they were Latino.
Some have said that the success of the Affordable Care Act program hinges on the Latino community because the community is younger and healthier and will help compensate for the older people who will sign up. The community also has a high rate of uninsured.
Back in December, Maria Teresa Kumar of Voto Latino, told the press, “The average white American is roughly 43 years old, but the average Latino is 26 years old. They’re not only at their prime, they’re also more likely to say, ‘I’m never going to get sick,’ and less likely to enroll for health insurance. That’s why this population is so important.”
Covered California has had a functioning site in Spanish running since October 1, whereas enrollment through the Spanish language federal website took longer to become functional. The officials from Covered California attribute the lower enrollment of Latinos to fewer Spanish speaking enrollment counselors and a lack of paper applications in Spanish.
Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, says, “We’re in the process of both fine-tuning the way we assess our enrollment demographics and, more importantly, building on our focus to ensure that more Latinos apply for and enroll in coverage.”
Paper applications are important because of issues related to internet access. Families with mixed immigration status may be less inclined to have contact with government employees to enroll in Covered California for fear of deportation.