Just under 11 percent of people who have signed up for health insurance on the federally-run Obamacare marketplace are Latino, according to data released Thursday by the Health and Human Services Department. The figure suggests the administration fell short in its efforts to communicate about Obamacare to Latinos, who have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. (29 percent).
Mayra Alvarez of the HHS office of minority health told reporters Thursday that helping 400,000 Latinos get coverage represented an "important step forward." However, she added, "We recognize there is more work to do."
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Alvarez also pointed out that the demographic data is not complete -- for one thing, it only represents enrollment in the federally-run Obamacare marketplaces. Fourteen states -- including some with large Latino populations, like California -- ran their own marketplaces. Furthermore, the demographic data released Thursday came from the 69 percent of enrollees who voluntarily reported that information.
Most enrollees in the federally-run marketplace, 62.9 percent, are white. Another 16.7 percent are African Americans, 10.7 percent are Latino, 7.9 percent are Asian; 1.3 percent are multiracial; 0.3 percent are American Indian/Alaska Native, and, 0.1 percent are Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
The administration and its allies made a conscious effort to reach out specifically to the Latino community, by partnering with Spanish-language media and launching CuidadoDeSalud.gov -- a Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov. They also staffed call centers with Spanish-speaking representatives and partnered with community leaders in Latino neighborhoods.
Alvarez noted there were some "unique challenges" in reaching out to the Latino community. For instance, there were concerns among some families that applying for health insurance could put undocumented family members at risk. Alvarez said the administration tried to allay those concerns on CuidadoDeSalud.gov and elsewhere.
Alvarez said that partnering with "trusted resources" like community-based organizations proved to be the most effective. Next year, she said, those 400,000 who are now enrolled in Obamacare will serve as "an important network of communicators."
The HHS on Thursday also confirmed, as President Obama had announced earlier, that more than 8 million people ultimately enrolled in an Obamacare plan during the six-month open enrollment period. Young adults (those between the ages of 18 and 34) accounted for 2.2 million of the enrollees (or 28 percent).
HHS also announced that more than 4.8 million additional individuals enrolled in Medicaid and
the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through the end of March 2014, compared to enrollment before the Marketplace opened last October.
"Together we are ensuring that health coverage is more accessible than ever before, which is important for families, for businesses and for the nation's health and wellbeing," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.