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Latinos, Young People Still Lag Behind in California Healthcare Enrollment as Obamacare Deadline Approaches

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First Posted: Mar 14, 2014 07:46 PM EDT
Healthcare
(Photo : Photo: Adrian Clark/ Flickr)

Enrollment in Obamacare coverage in California is up as the deadline draws closer, but according to a new report, Latinos and young people still lag behind in coverage.

The state's Covered California institution released new figures on Thursday showing how the Affordable Care Act's healthcare signups are faring. The good news for Covered California is that nearly 1,000,000 people (932,832, to be exact) have picked up a healthcare plan as of March 9, 2014 and the pace of signups has picked up in recent weeks, compared to the beginning of this year.

The figures suggest that during the first two months of the year, the pace of enrollments slowed down, but with 44,000 Californians signing up for healthcare through the state's insurance marketplace in the first nine days of March, that trend is turning around. Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California told the Los Angeles Times that the pace slowed earlier this year, "But we know these numbers will rise as we get closer to the [March 31] deadline."

Covered California also announced that about 1.5 million people enrolled or were made eligible for the expansion of California's Medicaid program for the state's low-income and underprivileged citizens.

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However, Latinos and young people, both considered important for the success of Obama's healthcare strategy, are still lagging behind the general population in enrollment. For example, while 46 percent of Latinos are eligible for subsidized healthcare in California's marketplace, only 22 percent are enrolled so far. When it comes to young people, aged 18 to 34, only about 27 percent (of the 36 percent who are eligible for subsidized enrollment) are actually signed up. But to make the healthcare exchange system work, most experts say that about 40 percent of healthy young people need to sign up.

Lee said Covered California is stepping up marketing and enrollment events for those two groups, concentrating on heavily Latino areas, as well as colleges around the state -- with nearly 650 total enrollment events to happen in communities in the next two weeks.

Yesterday, we noted that Latinos and young people are lagging behind in enrollment across the country, and wondered if Obama's appearance on the un-mainstream but "hip with the kids" internet show Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis would work to attract young Latinos to the Healthcare.gov site. Covered California, meanwhile, told the Washington Post that there's a cultural divide -- a "culture of coping," along with habits of relying on clinics or traveling to Mexico for care -- that is keeping Latinos from signing up in greater numbers. However, one Hispanic marketing firm, as we previously reported, blames Covered California's awkward Spanish-language marketing attempts for the low turnout.

Since it began putting the word out about Obamacare, Covered California has upped its attempts to reach out to young people, especially Latinos, including adding more bilingual employees and improving the Spanish-language website.

"We think we're in a strong position as we head into the final two weeks of open enrollment," said Lee to Southern California Public Radio. "But we know we have a lot of work to do ... We want to make sure Californians do not miss the deadline, because if you do not make the deadline ... you're going to get a penalty."

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