Obamacare Spanish-Language Site to ‘Soft Launch’ Next Month

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Spanish speakers will be able to enroll for health insurance online within weeks, following a two-month delay that sidetracked the Spanish-language Obamacare website, the Obama administration said Tuesday.

The administration plans to “soft launch” the Spanish-language counterpart to HealthCare.Gov — CuidadoDeSalud.Gov — in early December, an administration official confirmed to Fusion.

The enrollment tools will be fully operational during the “soft launch” period, meaning that anyone can use the website to obtain insurance coverage.

But the launch isn’t being widely advertised to allow time for “consumer testing.” The administration is working with community groups to help guide a smaller number of applicants through the process and provide feedback on whether the site is working.

The Obama administration plans a broader rollout with full promotional efforts “shortly after” the testing period “and into January,” the official said.

Talking Points Memo first reported news of the launch.

CuidadoDeSalud.Gov was supposed to become fully operational in mid-October, soon after the launch of HealthCare.Gov. But the launch was delayed indefinitely thanks to the same glitches that have plagued the English-language site.

Users have been able to browse CuidadoDeSalud.Gov for information about the Affordable Care Act, but they have been unable to compare insurance plans or sign up for coverage in the federal marketplace. Spanish-speakers were directed to sign up for coverage in-person or over the phone.

So far, call centers have taken 107,000 calls in Spanish, three percent of the overall number of calls, according to the Obama administration. As many as 10.2 million Latinos, no matter their language preference, may be eligible for insurance through the federal exchanges, official estimates say.

Lack of health insurance is a major problem among Latinos, and major advocacy groups like the National Council of La Raza have grown frustrated over the delays on the Spanish-language site.

One in three uninsured Americans are Hispanic. And Spanish-language access is important, too. Almost two in five Latino adults are Spanish dominant, according to the Pew Research Center.

Spanish-speakers may soon be able to obtain insurance online. But the window to sign up is limited. The deadline to get coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2014 is Dec. 23 and the final deadline to enroll before facing fines is March 31, 2014.