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Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Covered California: Older Jump In First, But Officials Buoyed By Number Of Young Enrollees

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Jesse Crall, 23, has been uninsured since he graduated from UCLA last year. Though he is otherwise healthy, Crall has depression and attention deficit disorder. Each month, he pays $760 for therapy and $300 for medication. 

He went online to sign up immediately, though he had to send additional paperwork before his application could be processed. “I want this to go into effect as soon as possible,” said Crall, who lives in Hollywood. “I need a plan that cuts these costs.”

Meeting The Latino Need

The data released Thursday highlighted one steep challenge for California officials: It showed a poor turnout among Spanish-speaking consumers. Just 3 percent of those signed up in October spoke primarily Spanish, compared to about 29 percent in the state's population. That is expected to increase over time, Lee said, because more than half of the enrollment counselors speak Spanish. 

Advertisements for the marketplace are also running in Spanish, there is a Spanish-language version of the marketplace website and several advocacy groups are doing outreach and education in Latino communities. 

But Latinos, who make up about 60 percent of the uninsured in the state, may be slower to apply because of the delay in getting enough Spanish-speaking enrollment counselors certified or because of a lack of education about the law, advocates said. Maria Lemus, executive director of Vision y Compromiso, an organization of Latino community health workers, agreed with Lee that more Latinos will enroll over time. But many of them still don’t know what options are available, and they often need one-on-one help signing up for insurance. 

“We can educate and inform and get them to the door or to the website, but moving them through the system is a different process,” she said. 

Marian Mulkey, who leads health reform research at the California HealthCare Foundation, said California officials should, however, be concerned. Latinos, she said, are a “pretty big part of the target population”. 

Pent-Up Demand For Coverage 

Kevin Horn, a 60-year-old self-employed graphic artist in Orange County, is among the more expected sort of enrollees: an older person with health problems. Horn and others like him represent the pent-up demand in the market of people who have been shut out of buying health insurance. 

Thu, Nov 21 2013

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