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Why Are Latinos Lagging On Health Insurance Enrollment?08:16

This article is more than 6 years old.

With only six weeks left before the March 31 deadline to enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, we check in on how signups are going — this time, in the Latino community.

In California, 1.7 million people have now enrolled through the state's "Covered California" health exchange. But only 28 percent of those enrolled identify as Latino, even though Latinos make up 46 percent of the uninsured population.

Signup problems in California have included poor Spanish translation on the exchange website and a lack of Spanish-speaking employees at information hotlines. A Spanish language paper application wasn't available until December.

U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat from California, has been outspoken in her effort to enroll Latino residents.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson checks in with her about California's enrollment effort. He then turns to Univision producer Stephen Keppel for a sense of what is going on in the rest of the country.

Interview Highlights

Rep. Sanchez on the challenges of signing up Latinos for healthcare plans

"It’s just not a language issue, it’s also a cultural issue. You have to understand, for example, that Latinos are less likely to be on the Internet or have access to a computer, which means that even if they are, they go to the public library — you have a 30 minute time frame usually in which you can get onto the computer because there’s such a need, there’s a line for it. There’s no way that you could get on to Covered California and figure out what you needed for your family and be able to purchase and sign up for a plan within 30 minutes."

"Remember we have mixed families in the Latino community, so somebody may not have the right paperwork or not be eligible for the ACA because they've been a legal resident less than five years, yet they might have children born here. Well, children need to be signed up. But children don't go and sign themselves up. The person who either doesn't have documents or who has been here less than five years, that's in legal status, doesn't want to jeopardize that for the ability to get citizenship by getting, quote, 'a benefit' from the United States. And so there's a lot of education to be done."

Stephen Keppel on Latino enrollment nationwide

"Actually, California is way out ahead of the rest of the country in this area. The congresswoman identified accurately a number of issues, with the outreach to Latinos and the enrollment of Latinos in California. But I think in other parts of the country, its probably even worse — especially those states that don’t have their own exchanges and haven’t expanded Medicaid... Texas and here in Florida, as well, the outreach has been even less, but we have huge populations of Latinos."

Keppel on the reasons behind the low enrollment

"The government didn't really think through how to launch or implement a law in two languages. I think, you know, this is the first time really that the government has had to think like that because this law impacts so many Latinos. About one in three Latinos don’t have insurance, so they have a lot to gain by this law. But I think it’s a lesson for governments going forward, if you’re going to implement something big, you’re going to have to do it now in English and in Spanish. Another factor is — especially recent immigrants, this idea of health insurance is different in some of their countries that they're coming from in Latin America. It’s a very different system. So there is a lot of education and awareness that needs to be done."


This segment aired on February 26, 2014.

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