Fears About Immigration Consequences Affected Latinos’ Healthcare Enrollment

By Julianne Hing May 02, 2014

Latinos posted lower than projected signup rates in President Obama’s healthcare enrollment, according to new numbers released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services. Part of that may have been due to families’ fears about how handing over information to the government.

Advocates in California and other states warned that among other rollout snags was hesitation in the community that signing up would also alert other sectors of government about family members who are undocumented, the Washington Post reported.

From the Washington Post

Sign-ups among Hispanics lagged initially, notably in California, which has been viewed as a bellwether for the nation because the state embraced the ACA and because it historically has had a very large and diverse uninsured population. The state spent millions targeting Latinos for sign-up, but participation was dismal late last year. Advocates complained that there were not enough Spanish-speaking counselors and that legal U.S. residents feared alerting the government to their unlawfully present relatives.

Advocates outside of California noticed a similar trend, attributing the lagging Hispanic enrollment to a delay in the Spanish-language version of the federal enrollment Web site, HealthCare.gov, as well as technical difficulties experienced by people in families with mixed immigration status who were trying to enroll on the federal marketplace.



Hispanics historically have had the nation’s highest rate of uninsured, with 
29 percentwithout coverage in 2012, according to Census Bureau figures. About 17 percent of African Americans15 percent of Asian Americans and 10 percent of whites did not have health insurance that year.

Over the past seven months of enrollment, attention has focused on Hispanics because they represent a huge proportion of the nation’s uninsured. Moreover, the population skews younger than the American public at large, making them key to the White House’s goal of ensuring robust enrollment by healthy young people.

According to the report, people who identified themselves as Latino accounted for 7.4 percent of total sign-ups in the 36 states with federal-run exchanges. The administration cautioned, however, that it did not have ethnicity data for about 31 percent of people selecting coverage on the federal marketplaces. The report also didn’t include data from the 15 state-run exchanges, and it doesn’t account for people who may have obtained coverage through Medicaid.