[Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California] said the exchange is making progress among Latinos after a disappointing start. He said 28% of enrollees last month identified themselves as Latino, compared with 18% for October through December.The Commonwealth Fund reported that, nationally, only 19 percent of Latinos have looked for insurance on a health exchange; only 20 percent of blacks and 28 percent of whites have shopped for a plan. About a third of Latinos in the country are uninsured, so outreach is critical. There are some real barriers, including fear of deportation. If one member of a household is undocumented, that family is less likely to get everyone else signed up for fear of disclosure. Lack out awareness is a huge barrier, as is the slow rollout of Spanish language exchanges and information.
Latinos represent more than half of the state's uninsured population, and many of them qualify for federal premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
"We're glad to see increased momentum for enrollment in the Latino communities, but we still have work to do," Lee said.
Some health-law supporters have sharply criticized the exchange's Latino outreach efforts to date. They have faulted Covered California for having too few Spanish-speaking enrollment counselors in key areas, poor translation on its Spanish-language website and for not publishing a paper application in Spanish until late December.
Covered California said it would spend $8.2 million through March on Spanish-language advertising, up 73% from what it spent in the fourth quarter. The state is hiring more bilingual call-center employees and looking to host more enrollment events at Latino supermarkets in Southern California.
California has hit its 2014 Obamacare enrollment targets, and a big part of that success is because of an uptick in Latino enrollments, who make up more than half of the state's uninsured population.
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