By Chris Woodward
Two policy analysts are weighing in on a recent survey showing a lack of Latinos enrolling in the president’s Affordable Care Act. One sees it as more of an electoral concern than just the insurance market itself; the other says it shows a failure by the White House.
The exact number of Latinos and other ethnicities enrolling is not known, although a Commonwealth Fund survey finds only 19 percent of Latinos have looked for health insurance on the exchanges. That compares to 28 percent of whites. The Latino number is a devastating figure, considering that at least one in three Latinos in the U.S. are uninsured – a rate far higher than that for whites or blacks. In addition, the Obama administration remains far short of the 7 million enrollees that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius thought the administration would have when open enrollment ends in late March.
Michael Ramlet with The Morning Consult believes the low Latino enrollment is more of an electoral concern than a reflection of the insurance market.
“[With] the Latino population, there are disproportionate numbers that are uninsured; and they certainly would stand to gain from becoming insured,” he suggests. “But I think the biggest issue is that the Obama administration and Democrats have aggressively reached out to the Latino community with expectations that there was going to be a very strong emphasis on the rollout – and unfortunately for that community, the Spanish-language website was not ready.”
Ramlet believes that may be seen as a letdown of sorts by some people in the Latino community.
Agreeing somewhat with that is Xavier Morales, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, who tells CNN Money that Spanish-language sites are a reason for the lack of Latinos enrolling. Still, he believes skepticism, lack of awareness, and even fears of deportation factor into the situation.
According to CNN Money, many Latinos live in households where one member is “undocumented”; and while that person isn’t eligible for ObamaCare, people who are eligible to enroll may avoid doing out of fear of possibly drawing the attention of immigration officials.
Yevgeniy Feyman with the Manhattan Institute, however, offers a somewhat different take on the survey.
“For one, it means that the administration has largely failed at what should have been a relatively easy marketing campaign,” he explains. “You know pretty much who you want to target and when it comes to … California especially, a good chunk of the uninsured population is Latino.
“So for the administration to not figure out a good way to target them is a little disappointing – especially because there are so many marketing firms that probably could have helped them, and a lot of branding companies know how to do this very well.”
While Feyman believes it may be a few years until the success or failure of ObamaCare can be determined, he does think the reported lack of Latinos enrolling shows the Affordable Care Act will not be helping the people it aims to help.