California: Latino enrollment in Obamacare opens strong

California said Latino turnout has been strong during the second open enrollment under the health law. Above, families sign up in April in Los Angeles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California’s health exchange said it has seen a strong turnout among Latinos for Obamacare coverage after nearly two months of open enrollment.

Covered California struggled at times to reach uninsured Latinos during the initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and it was roundly criticized by state lawmakers for marketing missteps.

The state-run exchange said Thursday that 28% of its new enrollees as of Jan. 12 identify as Latino. That’s ahead of where the exchange was at the midpoint of the first open enrollment and similar to where it finished in April.


Overall, the state said 228,766 people have newly enrolled in a private health plan from Nov. 15 to Jan. 12, and 88% have qualified for federal premium subsidies based on their income. Open enrollment ends Feb. 15.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, credited the strong response among Latinos thus far to increased Spanish-language advertising and an emphasis on in-person help through insurance agents or storefronts.

And Lee said there are signs that even more Latinos are waiting in the wings. Half of the 311,000 people who have been determined eligible for coverage but haven’t yet picked a health plan identify as Latino, according to state figures.

“It tells us our marketing and outreach is working,” Lee said. “We still need to get these people across the finish line.”

Covered California has also made a more concerted effort this time to assure people that residency information about family members who are not applying won’t be shared with immigration authorities.

The state has partnered with leading immigrant-rights groups to help spread that message.

The rate of sign-ups among Asians and African Americans through Jan. 12 was largely in line with the first open enrollment, according to state figures. The breakdown by age wasn’t significantly different either.


Twitter: @chadterhune