The glitches plaguing the Obama administration’s health insurance site have made it hard for millions to register for coverage online, but the problems are worse for uninsured Spanish speakers.
This week was supposed to mark the full launch of CuidadoDeSalud.gov, the Spanish-language counterpart to HealthCare.gov, which went online on Oct. 1. But that launch has been delayed indefinitely due to the glitches affecting the English-language site, senior White House officials said Tuesday.
Users can browse CuidadoDeSalud.Gov for information about the Affordable Care Act. But they cannot compare insurance plans or enroll in coverage on the exchanges. Instead, people are directed to call a toll-free number (1-800-318-2596) and can speak to a representative about obtaining coverage.
White House officials on Tuesday sought to tamp down concerns about the lack of functionality on the Spanish-language site, emphasizing that Spanish speakers can still register by phone, with “navigators” from community groups, or at health clinics.
“There is a difference between a website, which has problems, and a law, which is working,” an official, who declined to be named, told Hispanic media outlets during a briefing at the White House. “The law is working. And we are obviously working to make sure that is true of the website as well.”
The official said that the hope is to have the site fully functional in “a matter of weeks,” but that there is no set date.
“While it is absolutely true that it is beneficial to have a site [up] in Spanish, we should avoid framing it as some kind of problem of making the Affordable Care Act inaccessible to the Hispanic community,” the official said. “That is not true.”
Lack of health insurance is a major problem in the Hispanic community. Nearly one in three uninsured Americans are Hispanic, according to the National Council of La Raza. Hispanics are almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be uninsured.
The federal government projects that 10.2 million Latinos will be able to obtain insurance under Obamacare.
Insurance coverage on the exchanges are for people who do not have health insurance through their employer, and do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Only 38 percent of Latinos have employer-based health insurance, well below the rates of non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians. A third are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
Spanish-language access is important, too. Almost two in five Hispanic adults are Spanish dominant, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Three weeks into the six-month enrollment period, the Affordable Care Act’s call center has fielded 41,000 calls in Spanish, according to reports.
Republicans who oppose the law pounced on the problems with the Spanish-language site. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said Tuesday he would introduce a bill to postpone fines for individuals who do not purchase insurance until both websites are fully fixed.
“Hispanics have among the highest uninsured rates in the nation,” he said in a statement. “Yet despite hundreds of millions of dollars devoted to a Spanish-language propaganda campaign, the Spanish-language ObamaCare website hasn’t even been launched.”
Americans have until Feb. 15 to sign up for an insurance plan to avoid fines. White House officials called talk of extending deadlines or the enrollment period “premature.”
The officials echoed President Obama’s frustration with the websites, saying that “we have yet to achieve” a “positive user experience.” But they expressed confidence that would not affect Latinos’ ability to obtain coverage.
“It shouldn’t,” an official said. "Latinos have had the ability to register since the first day, both in English and in Spanish.”