Covered California: Enrollment surging, but Latinos still lag

Jorge Ramirez

Adrian Florido/KPCC

Jorge Ramirez, uninsured, healthy and 33, ponders his options under Covered California at the South Central Family Health Center in south L.A. The state-run health insurance marketplace acknowledges that it needs to sign up many more Latinos.

Covered California says enrollment in private health plans has continued to surge in the last few days as the state nears Monday's deadline to sign up for coverage that kicks in Jan. 1.  But the the state-run health insurance marketplace acknowledges it is still having trouble reaching one important demographic: Latinos. 

Covering California series icon 2013

In a call with reporters Thursday, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said that in the last three days, more than 53,000 people have signed up for health plans through the exchange.
 
"That number is 60 percent higher than the 31,000 who enrolled in the entire month of October," he said.
 
Lee said he expects the pace to continue to pick up through Monday. Though the agency released enrollment figures for the first three days of this week, it won't release cumulative totals until January.
 
During the call, Lee acknowledged that Covered California has lagged in signing up Latinos, and said in recent days the agency has kicked its marketing efforts to reach that population into high gear.
 
The agency's most recent statistics showed that only about 10,000 self-identified Latinos enrolled in private health plans in October and November, out of a total enrollment of 109,000 during that period. In response, Lee said the agency has doubled its spending on Latino-targeted advertising in the last week, with a particular focus on Los Angeles.
 
Latinos make up more than half of California’s uninsured, and enrolling them in large numbers is considered critical to keeping overall insurance costs down.
 
In addition to more advertising, Lee said his agency is improving its Spanish web page, working to translate its paper application into Spanish by Jan. 1, and hosting focus groups to find out why Latinos aren’t enrolling in larger numbers.

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