NEW YORK Feb 19 More than 800,000 Californians
have enrolled in private health insurance under President Barack
Obama's healthcare reform law, but that number included fewer
Latinos than officials hoped, the head of its state-run
marketplace said on Wednesday.
California has already exceeded estimates of how many people
it would enroll by March 31, signing up 828,638 residents for
health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, said executive
director Peter V. Lee.
Officials had hoped more Latinos would enroll, partly
because polls have shown Latinos are more supportive of the
healthcare reform law. In September, the Pew Research Center
found 61 percent of Hispanics viewed it favorably, compared to
29 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Yet their enrollment has
To address the shortfall, Covered California is rolling out
a multimillion-dollar outreach campaign to run until March 31,
the enrollment deadline for health insurance coverage in 2014.
California and federal health exchange officials have made
Latino enrollment a priority for several reasons, including the
group's median age and its large numbers who lack health
insurance. In the U.S., the median age of Latinos is 27,
compared to 42 for non-Latino whites, according to the Pew
Hispanic Center. Insurers want younger customers because their
medical costs are generally lower than older people's.
About 31 percent of Latinos have no health coverage,
according to Pew, compared to 16 percent of the overall U.S.
In the first three months of 2014, Covered California will
spent $8.2 million for ads on Spanish-language media to reach
those uninsured Latinos, Lee said. That represents an increase
of 73 percent from the last three months of 2013.
The final push before next month's enrollment deadline
focuses on what Lee called "the ground game." Covered California
is adding more bilingual enrollment counselors and hiring more
bilingual call-center representatives in seven communities with
large populations of Latinos who are eligible for federal
subsidies to help pay premiums for health insurance.
They include areas in Los Angeles, in San Bernardino and
Riverside counties, and in the Central Valley and San Joaquin
"People want to sit across the table from someone" helping
them enroll, Lee said.
Reasons why Latino enrollment figures have been low include
fear of immigration enforcement and a lack of awareness.
Undocumented immigrants cannot buy insurance on the insurance
exchanges, creating problems for families where one or both
parents are in the U.S. illegally.
Surveys also have shown that roughly half of Latinos
nationally say they are familiar with the insurance exchanges,
compared to nearly 70 percent of non-Hispanic whites and blacks.
The outreach has already yielded results. In January, Latino
enrollment in Covered California plans represented 28 percent of
total sign-ups, compared to 18 percent for October through
"We had 45,745 Latinos enroll in a single month," Lee said
in reference to the January numbers.
(Editing by Amanda Kwan)