California drafts labor icon Huerta to woo Latinos to Obamacare

California drafts labor icon Huerta to woo Latinos to Obamacare
At an AltaMed clinic in Los Angeles, labor activist Dolores Huerta encourages people to sign up for insurance through Covered California. (Soumya Karlamangla / Los Angeles Times)

With time running short to sign up for Obamacare, California officials have recruited labor activist Dolores Huerta to urge Latinos to get health insurance.

The state's move comes amid struggles at enrolling Latinos, who represent about 60% of the state's uninsured population. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act ends March 31.


Huerta is co-founder of the United Farm Workers union and worked for years alongside the late Cesar Chavez. She is featured in new radio and online ads for Covered California airing statewide.

In the advertising and at a news conference Friday in East Los Angeles, Huerta called on Latinos to remember the decades-long struggle for civil rights and equality. She told uninsured Latinos they had a civic duty to sign up and be part of a historic expansion of healthcare coverage.

"We have to be responsible citizens and we have to understand, if we do not do our part, we can't help our community," Huerta says in an online ad.

"If you don't sign up that means your abuelos, your tios, so many people, they will not be able to have their health insurance," she adds.

She acknowledged the sign-up process may be complicated or inconvenient but said that pales in comparison with the sacrifices made by civil rights leaders in the past.

Huerta, 83, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Covered California has been criticized for poor marketing to Latinos and for not having enough Spanish-speaking call-center workers and enrollment counselors available to help consumers.

The exchange hopes Huerta can connect with Latino moms, in particular.

"She is particularly well-known among Latino women in our state, who are often the driving force in households for taking care of their families' health," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

Through mid-February, California has enrolled 828,000 in private health plans.

Twitter: @skarlamangla