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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Spanish speakers left behind in California

Kaiser Health News:

EAST PALO ALTO, Calif. − In Silicon Valley, the executives and engineers who’ve helped build the Apple, Google and Facebook empires earn high salaries and enjoy a slew of perks, including stellar health benefits.

The clients of the Ravenswood Family Health Center, a community clinic in East Palo Alto just two miles away from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters, live in a very different Silicon Valley.

They’re the gardeners, nannies, factory workers and service staff who keep Silicon Valley homes and offices humming, the lawns manicured and the families comfortable. ...

Many earn between $5 and $15 an hour, don’t own or use computers and are more comfortable speaking Spanish than English. Sixty-five percent of East Palo Alto’s population is Latino, a group seen as crucial to the success of the health law. Many lack health insurance and pose a lower financial risk because they are typically younger and healthier than others.

Yet California, with the greatest number of Latinos in the country, is far behind in reaching this population. And across the nation, the picture appears even worse.

Readers will recall that the Spanish version of the Federal website was one of the many requirements the administration dropped on it way to the October 1 launch date.

Those who primarily speak Spanish are largely being left out of the first wave of coverage under Obamacare. Many missed the late December deadline for enrollment in plans beginning Jan. 1. People must sign up by March 31 or face a penalty....

California’s health insurance marketplace, Covered California, has had a functioning Spanish-language website since Oct. 1 – which puts it ahead of most of the rest of the country. But [Elizabeth Gonzalez, 31] couldn’t access the site from home because she doesn’t have Internet service or a smartphone.

"With my budget, I don’t have access to that," she said in Spanish. "I have to limit myself to the primordial."

Instead, she relied on staff at the county’s human services office, two floors up from the library where she works, to guide her.

Staff members there told her she needed to fill out an application and to wait for up to a month to hear whether she was eligible for Medi-Cal − California’s insurance program for the poor. Discouraged, she made repeated telephone calls to the hotline for Covered California.

"There’s no one picking up, probably because there’s not enough people," she said. "We need more information in poor communities and places to help you fill out forms so you know you’re doing it correctly. There’s not enough [information] in Spanish."

According to the latest data released by the state, less than 5 percent of California’s roughly 110,000 signups in October and November were completed in Spanish.

Spanish-speaking operators at Covered California call centers, as well as navigators who can walk people through enrollment, are in short supply. The section on the Spanish version of Covered California for requesting help with enrollment still links to an English website.

In other parts of the country, Spanish speakers are worse off.

Too bad. With single payer, Gonzales would be able to get the health care she needs now. But priorities.

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