While Covered California’s website is available in Spanish, the agency has a dramatic shortage of Spanish-speaking enrollment counselors. Many Spanish-speaking Californians say they prefer to enroll in person.
California may be leading the nation in its aim to enroll Latinos into health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, but sign-ups are falling far short of the goal. The state’s marketplace for health insurance, Covered California, is scrambling to fix problems with its marketing and outreach campaigns.
For starters, Spanish-speaking counselors are hard to come by. More of them are needed to address concerns of Latinos, who are wary of the health insurance system. Some are hesitant to sign up because they’re afraid undocumented family members will be discovered and then deported. Others aren’t sure it’s worth the money.
People like Larissa Bobadilla are trying to convince them that it’s okay.
“They trust me,” says Bobadilla, a health outreach worker and enrollment counselor. She started working in Los Angeles 16 years ago as a promotora, a health educator. Now, the children of people she helped more than a decade ago are coming to her to find out what’s really going on with Obamacare. “The news gives a lot of information, (but) it confuses the people. They don’t know what is the truth.”
Many Latinos have never bought insurance before. So Bobadilla takes the time to explain what the benefits are and how they work, in their own language: Spanish.
Bobadilla is exactly the kind of person Covered California wants in the trenches. The trouble is, there aren’t nearly enough people like her out there. The state wanted to have 20,000 certified counselors ready to go when plans first went on sale in October. Yet today, it has just 4,000. Continue reading