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California sees weakness in Latino enrollment

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Managers at Covered California say they’re bringing in far fewer Latino commercial health plan customers than they’d hoped.

The state-based exchange had received private “qualified health plan” selection information for 500,108 residents by Dec. 31.

Exchange managers say their base QHP enrollment goal for March 31 is 580,000.

Exchange critics have noted that picking a QHP is different from actually paying for coverage. The California exchange is not yet releasing paid QHP sales figures.

If all of the people who picked QHPs by Dec. 31 pay for coverage, actual enrollment will amount to about 86 percent of the projection.

The exchange already has brought in about as many White and Asian enrollees as it had expected, and three times as many enrollees as expected in a category that includes Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, people of mixed race, people of “unknown race” and those who identify themselves in some other way.

But the exchange has attracted only 49 percent of the 22,000 black enrollees it hoped to attract, and just 28 percent of the 265,000 Latino enrollees.

Interest among Hispanic and Latino consumers does seem to be increasing, and those consumers made up about one-quarter of the enrollees in late December, up from just 15 percent in early October, when open enrollment began, exchange managers said.

The exchange is trying to improve efforts to market to Latino consumers by adding $4.5 million to Spanish-language marketing efforts.

The exchange is putting custom content on Univision in an effort to tell Latinos about PPACA, exchange managers said. 

The exchange also is buying more Spanish-language radio ads, sending direct mail to Latino Los Angeles residents, and trying to work more with libraries, churches and cities.

About 60 percent of the 3,729 exchange certified enrollment counselors and 14 percent of the 10,013 exchange certified insurance agents speak Spanish, officials said.

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