Language issues were the most pervasive problem, the report noted. The HealthCare.gov website and most outreach materials were only available in Spanish and English. When there were efforts made to translate materials into Asian languages, the endeavors sometimes went awry. For example, Korean translations on HealthCare.gov contained phonetic translations of insurance terms that were meaningless.
“The dearth of resources available made it impossible to apply on their own,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, at a conference in Washington Wednesday where the report's findings were presented.
That meant that time-intensive, in-person assistance was necessary to get many individuals enrolled in coverage. Roughly 60% of Asian-Americans were born in another country, the highest proportion of any ethnic group. In addition, more than 70% speak a language other than English at home and a third have limited English proficiency.
Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, acknowledged that immigrants encountered problems trying to enroll during the first year of exchange operation. In particular, she said that they often encountered a yellow error screen when attempting to verify their immigration status. “We aim to make the yellow screen a thing of the past this year,” Munoz said at the conference. “This year is going to present new challenges that we didn't have to face last year.”
Despite the impediments, Asians accounted for 5.5% of enrollments during the initial sign-up period, according to the CMS (PDF). The uninsured rate among Asians is 13.3%, according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PDF). That's well below the level of other minority groups, but higher than the level for whites (11.5%).
Groups affiliated with Action for Health Justice provided enrollment assistance to 232,230 individuals during the first open-enrollment period, according to the report. That included working with individuals who spoke 41 different languages.
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