Officials remedy Covered California sign-ups

Covered California had a rough start with Latino enrollment in health insurance for reasons such as website translation errors, lack of awareness and fear of immigration enforcement, but membership numbers have increased since the program’s initial debut.

According to Leticia Márquez-Magaña, the advisor for Chicanos in Health Education, the solution may lie in reaching out to the Latino college student community.

“When one is creating accessible materials they should be written in a way that everyone can understand,” said Aimée Williams, a health educator in SF State’s Student Health Services Building. Williams, who is a certified enrollment counselor, added that a lot of her clients are concerned over Covered California’s use of technical language. “I would say that the materials be written at a fourth or fifth grade level, including the ones in Spanish,” she said.

She has worked with clients who learned English as a second language and noticed that they are struggling to get a hold of someone to suit their personal needs.

“If they’re saying that language is an issue, get college students involved and tell them that they can really help their family out with understanding it,” said Márquez-Magaña

In January, Latino enrollment increased by nearly a quarter compared to the October through December numbers, according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

The agency will continue their efforts by spending $8.2 million between January and March on Spanish-speaking advertisements, according to Lee. Covered California also plans to hire more bilingual enrollment counselors and bilingual call-center representatives.

To get more students enrolled in health insurance by the deadline, Williams said that the student health center is working with the CSU Health Insurance Education Project, which works to educate CSU students about the options they have under the new health insurance law.

Throughout the week SF State students involved with the project will go around to classrooms and give presentations about enrolling in health insurance. Once they collect e-mails from the students who want to enroll, Williams will help them continue with the enrollment process.

Williams added that students are responding well to this and that in the last two weeks she has seen an increase in the number of students who want to enroll.

“Right now, we’re going to stick with this process, but we’re thinking about getting an outside enrollment counselor on site so that we can do more advertising,” Williams said.

Ramón Castellblanch, an associate health education professor, thinks that the government should change the outreach to Latinos, both in terms of mass media and hiring people to go into the community and help them sign up.

He added that a solution to better mass media efforts for the community would be for Covered California to use Latino radio stations as a means of reaching out to the community about enrolling.

“I tell all of my students that they are not only responsible for themselves, but they are responsible for all of their family,” said Castellblanch, who added that some of these students may be the first members of their family to go to college.

Covered California plans on holding enrollment fairs throughout the Bay Area, leading up to the March 31 deadline.

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