California Scrambling to Enroll Hispanics in Obamacare

Image: California Scrambling to Enroll Hispanics in Obamacare Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, left, greets more than 250 new employees at a call center in Fresno on Feb. 10.

Friday, 14 Feb 2014 09:45 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Obamacare’s success might hinge on the enrollment of Hispanics — and so far they make up 20 percent or fewer of those who had signed up through the end of December, The New York Times reports.

With the looming March 31 open-enrollment deadline, state and federal officials are scrambling to increase Hispanic participation, of whom eight out of 10 qualify for government-funded health insurance or financial assistance to pay for private plans on Obamacare markets, The Washington Times reports.

Health and Human Services "said one in four uninsured Americans who are eligible for plans on the Obamacare markets is Hispanic, or about 10.2 million out of 41.3 million people,” notes The Washington Times. “The majority of them — 62 percent — live in California, Texas, and Florida and about half are between the ages of 18 and 35, a younger, healthy, demographic that is key to making the law’s economic work.”

With the help of a $155 million federal grant, Covered California will begin a push to sell the healthcare marketplace in community centers rather than over the phone or on the website, according to Bloomberg. Fifteen percent of the country’s uninsured are in California, where about 50 percent of the population is Hispanic

The program will also add 350 representatives, including bilingual workers, to its service center and has sent a million mailers to mostly Spanish-speaking homes.

Many Hispanics worry that enrolling would draw attention to their legal status or the legal status of someone in their family, according to The New York Times.

“A lot of the issues boil down to trust — can they trust the information they’re getting and can they trust that what they give will only be used for healthcare,” Ellen Wu, the executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, told The New York Times.

“We hear all the time of families where one parent could help their children enroll, but they fear that the information is going to be sent to immigration authorities," Wu continued. "You’ve gone all this time without something, so you’re not going to risk that you lose a family member just to get it.”

Illegal immigrants cannot buy coverage on state and federal exchanges and are not eligible for Medicaid, but their American-born children can qualify.

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