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

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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. 

He has a long list of health issues, including acid reflux, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and high blood pressure. He takes about 18 pills each day, and many of his prescriptions will run out in January. He has been denied coverage in the past but now pays about $500 a month for insurance through a special program for people with preexisting illnesses. 

Horn, 60, went onto the website on Oct. 1 but got an error message when he tried to enroll. He spent weeks trying to sign up online and over the phone before the application finally went through this week. His new plan under Covered California will cost $74 a month – a dramatic savings. 

“I am definitely eager and anxious,” he said. Horn said he can’t afford to pay his last two months of premiums and has already made medical appointments for January, when his new coverage begins. 

Larry Kaplan, who lives in Los Angeles, is also looking forward to January. Kaplan, 60, signed up this month for a plan under Covered California, which will save him about $300 a month. Kaplan began paying for his own health policy after losing his job and his insurance several years ago. 

Kaplan said he is overweight and has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. “I am in pretty good health, but I have the typical chronic things people my age have,” he said. 

Thu, Nov 21 2013

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