Obamacare: Latino Enrollment Numbers in California Show Mixed Results

A retooled, multi-million-dollar marketing effort by the state’s health care exchange to persuade more of the state’s Latino residents to obtain insurance under the nation’s health care law is showing mixed results, according to enrollment data released Thursday.

Nonetheless, Covered California officials appear hopeful that final enrollment figures will be rosier.

This year’s first demographic breakdown of enrollment numbers, released by Covered California, showed that of the 228,766 Californians who selected a 2015 health care plan in the first 60 days of open enrollment — from Nov. 15 through Jan. 12 — 28 percent are Latino.

That’s exactly the same percentage of Latinos who enrolled in a health plan during the six-and-a-half month open enrollment period that ran from October 2013 through mid-April 2014.

“They are ahead of where they were last year at this point in reaching Latinos, but not yet where many hoped they would be,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Menlo Park-based Kaiser Family Foundation.

But “it’s likely that enrollment will surge over the next few weeks as the deadline nears,” Levitt said. “And that surge could include a large number of Latinos.”

During a presentation to the exchange’s board of directors Thursday, Covered California’s executive director, Peter Lee, told the board that half of the roughly 300,000 people who have been determined eligible for coverage are Latinos but have not yet selected a plan.

“What does this tell us?” Lee asked. “The fact that 50 percent of those in the pipeline are Latino really demonstrates our investment into Spanish language advertising, in storefronts and outreach in the Latino community is making a difference.”

The focus now, he said, is to encourage those 150,000 Latinos to select a plan. And, Lee said, Covered California will be doing that by contacting those in the “pipeline” by email and phone calls to get them to “cross the finish line” in the final push toward the Feb. 15 open enrollment deadline under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Thursday’s figures showed 38 percent of the enrollment so far are white, compared to 35 percent of the 1.2 million Californians who enrolled in private plans last year through the exchange.

Asian-Americans so far represent 19 percent of new enrollees, compared to 21 percent in the entire open enrollment period last year.

The number of African-Americans was 3 percent — the same number as last year.

Others reviewing Thursday’s numbers were more positive about Latino numbers.

“Clearly Covered California’s outreach and marketing efforts have been successful getting Latino consumers in the door; unfortunately we appear to be losing them before they actually select a plan,” said state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina.

Hernandez was among the California Latino leaders last year who assailed the exchange for its initial weak efforts to enroll Latinos.

He and others said many Latinos fear that signing up for a plan could alert immigration authorities to the undocumented family members who live with them. (Illegal immigrants are ineligible for Obamacare.)

As a result, Covered California this time around launched a partnership with leading immigrant rights groups to spread the word that information shared in health plan applications will be kept secret and confidential.

Hernandez, however, said he still has questions.

“I want to know whether cost, language barriers, confusion or other obstacles are keeping Latinos from completing the process. My office stepped up and helped Covered California turn this problem around last year and we stand ready to assist again.”

Lee has said that over the current three-month enrollment period, almost half of the exchange’s $29 million media budget is being directed at the roughly 600,000 Latinos who last year qualified for subsidized coverage on the exchange, but never enrolled.

The exchange has also doubled the number of Spanish-speaking enrollment counselors after discovering last year that many Latinos prefer face-to-face interaction to signing up online.

Source Link