Facing low Latino enrollment in Obamacare plans, state exchanges and enrollment organizations plan to spend less time on the airwaves and more on the ground to reach the Latino population before the March 31 deadline, as well as for the upcoming 2015 open enrollment. They still have hopes of boosting Latino signups to respectable levels for this year.
California's state health insurance exchange, Covered California, announced last month that it would ramp up its grass-roots efforts in Latino communities by hosting in-store enrollment events and adding more bilingual certified enrollment counselors and certified insurance agents to its group of 4,180 statewide.
Though California has led the nation in enrollment, with more than 1 million residents signed up, that state, along with other states, has come under criticism for its relatively low number of Latino enrollees. Despite spending about $4.7 million on Spanish-language media between October and December and another $8.2 million after January, Covered California has struggled to pull in Latinos, who make up 60% of uninsured residents. Only about 22% of state enrollees between October and the end of February were Latino.
“No matter how much money you put into an effort, if execution is not done well, it's not going to be effective,” said Elvia Delgado, vice president of sales and marketing for AltaMed, which operates not-for-profit clinics in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Marketing experts blame low Latino enrollment on the state's heavy reliance on traditional media strategies—digital resources and brochures translated from English to Spanish—instead of prioritizing direct personal contacts between Latino consumers and people who can answer their enrollment questions in a culturally and linguistically comfortable way.
“The major miss for Obamacare is that it really forced people into the website,” said Carlos Santiago, president and chief strategist of Santiago Solutions Group, a Los Angeles-based Hispanic market research firm. “The ads didn't give you a choice, other than a www address. There was no physical address, no 800 number.”