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Spanish speakers lag in Obamacare enrollments



California's Silicon Valley has much in common with Coral Gables and other South Florida neighborhoods. On one side are the elegant homes and offices of the high-salaried. On the other, the quarters of largely Hispanic gardeners, nannies and other service staff, who the Affordable Care Act was meant to help. 

With typical salaries from  $5 to $15 an hour and a lesser likelihood of owning or using a computer, this group has largely been left out of the first wave of Obamacare coverage, Kaiser Health News reports.  

"In part, the lag in sign-ups among Spanish speakers reflects a digital − and a cultural − divide. Many are hesitant about handing over personal information to strangers over the Internet," writes KHN. 

The lag exists in California despite the fact that the state has had a functioning Spanish-language website since Oct. 1. In Florida and 35 other states that rely on the federally run insurance exchanges, Hispanics couldn't enroll in CuidadoDeSalud.gov − the Spanish-friendly version of the federal marketplace − until Dec. 6, more than two months after its English counterpart, HealthCare.gov, launched on Oct. 1, reports KHN. 

In addition, the window shopping feature that allows consumers to see health plans before starting the sign-up process is still incomplete on the Spanish language site.  

In Miami-Dade, that's left many seeking assistance at health clinics and other navigator sites, where Spanish and Creole-speaking staff have been enrolling steady streams of applicants since the healthcare website began performing smoothly at the end of November.

But two persistant barriers to enrollment are trust and cost. Hispanics living in households with undocumented relatives often fear that signing up for a government run program will lead to unwanted scrutiny and even deportations, writes KHN.    

In Florida, which didn't expand Medicaid, many Hispanics in low-paying jobs are aware of Obamacare and have been initially interested. But despite the tax credits they qualify for, reducing some monthly premiums to $0, the out-of-pocket costs of health insurance dimihish it's attractiveness.

Here and around the country, "I can't pay for this" is a common reaction among populations struggling to stay afloat.  Read more. 


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