Final ObamaCare push targets blacks, Hispanics

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The Obama administration is beginning a coordinated, community-based effort to enroll blacks and Hispanics in ObamaCare before the final deadline for 2014.

The two minority groups are important to the administration’s enrollment efforts because they make up a disproportionate percentage of the uninsured and tend to skew younger.

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In a Monday interview with HuffPostLive, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declined to say how many black people had enrolled in ObamaCare, or how many in that minority group the administration hoped to get, but noted that African Americans are “far more likely to be uninsured.”

Sebelius also said the black population is comparatively younger than the rest of the country, making up 40 percent of those under age 35, with more than 3 million of uninsured blacks under that age.

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure they know about benefits under the law, and they know how easy it is to sign up and enroll in health insurance,” she said.

Last Friday, President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett held a conference call with reporters and three mayors that preside over large black communities: Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif.; Michael Nutter of Philadelphia; and A.C. Wharton of Memphis, Tenn.

Jarrett outlined the “final coordinated push” to enroll blacks in ObamaCare, and said the administration would be working with youth organizers and stakeholders to launch enrollment events targeting black youths in the coming weeks.

A similar effort launched this week aimed at Hispanics.

On Monday, the administration launched a Latino Enrollment Week of Action aimed at educating Hispanics about the merits of getting coverage. The federal government is partnering with local leaders and activist groups for summits in Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Philadelphia to get the word out.

The Obama administration has said there are 8 million uninsured Hispanics eligible for ObamaCare in the country However, data coming out of the California healthcare exchange suggests the group has been slow to enroll.

The administration has been criticized for the long delay in releasing the Spanish-language ObamaCare website, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, and some have said the final product was sloppy.

But on Monday, HHS director Mayra Alvarez said the administration was “redoubling” its efforts to enroll Hispanics, and “engaging in an ambitious outreach program.”

She touted the improved CuidadoDeSalud.gov, which she said now offers a more robust shopping experience, and noted the administration’s success in reaching Hispanics consumers through partnerships with Spanish-language media.

Administration officials and local leaders say there are unique challenges to getting blacks and Hispanics on board with the healthcare law.

Wharton said one of the barriers to enrollment in his poverty-stricken city of Memphis is that the poor have become so reliant on free emergency room services that any cash outlay for insurance, no matter how cheap, would be a sticker shock for some of his citizens.

And the administration said many Hispanics may be wary about enrolling in a federal program because they live in a “mixed family,” and fear it may expose their undocumented relatives. Hispanics also worry about the costs being prohibitive, and the administration is trying to get the word out that 80 percent of those uninsured likely qualify for a federal subsidy.

A White House official told The Hill on Monday that the push for minorities was not new, that the goal had always been to reach out to different ages, genders, races and geographic areas.

Still, those efforts are particularly visible five-weeks out from the March 31 enrollment deadline.

Federal health officials face a tough task in reaching their goal of 7 million sign-ups by March 31.Through January, only 3.3 million had signed up, and the administration needs a strong number of healthy consumers, who skew younger, for the law to perform optimally.