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Is Spanish Affordable Care Act Website Worse Than Healthcare.gov

By Albert Lin


Since moving to Florida two years, Gretti Diaz, a 27-year-old originally from Cuba who works as a gas-station cashier in Miami, has not had health insurance. So she eagerly awaited the day when she could sign up for subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act. But like many Americans who tried to enroll via the web, Diaz hit a roadblock.

Given the government’s problems rolling out Healthcare.gov, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the Spanish version, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, has also met with its own share of issues.

“In my opinion, the website doesn’t work,” Diaz told the Associated Press. Diaz, who speaks little English, said she tried to sign up via CuidadoDeSalud.gov but couldn’t upload a scanned document. She called a Spanish-language hotline for help but repeatedly heard a message to call back because the site was down. She finally got through a few days later but was disconnected after being on hold for an hour. “I’m very frustrated,” she said. “I’ve spent at least one week on the phone and I couldn’t get it done.”

She’s not the only one. As the AP reports, the CuidadoDeSalud.gov was two months late (it launched Dec. 6 rather than Oct. 1); a page with Spanish instructions hyperlinked to an English form (this was fixed after the AP contacted the Department of Health & Human Services), and the translations are chock full of grammatical errors. (Veronica Plaza, who teaches medical Spanish at the University of New Mexico, said that her research students concluded that the translations were done “by a computer-generated process”; HHS says the site was translated using the same method used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.)

Healthcare workers also report other technical difficulties: The site takes longer to load than Healthcare.gov, and it requires applicants to upload income and immigration documents, which can be problematic.

As a result of the obstacles, the number of Spanish speakers who have enrolled in insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act is lower than expected. In California, for example, only 5,500 people signed up in Spanish in October and November out of a Spanish-speaking population of 4.3 million.

In New Mexico, which has the highest percentage of Latino residents of any state in the U.S. (47.0 percent) and where more than 20 percent of the population is without health insurance, fewer than 1,000 people total signed up in October and November.

Florida officials also have not broken out their numbers, but the state had 18,000 total signups in October/November, in a state where Latinos make up about one-third of the 3.5 million uninsured.

It is unclear how many total uninsured Latinos have enrolled, but HHS originally projected that 10.2 million (the most of all underrepresented groups) would have “an opportunity to get affordable health-insurance coverage,” and the number clearly is not close to that.

Gabriel Sanchez, a political science professor at the University of New Mexico, said these snafus give the impression that the government is unconcerned about the plight of Latinos. “They will look at this, and think, ‘Man, they really don’t care about us,'” he said.

Federal officials say this is not true and that they are constantly working to fix all bugs and improve the user experience.

“We launched consumer-friendly Spanish online enrollment tools on CuidadoDeSalud.gov in December, which represents one more way for Latinos to enroll in Marketplace plans,” said HHS spokesman Richard Olague in an email to The Associated Press. “Since the soft-launch, we continue to work closely with key stakeholders to get feedback in order to improve the experience for those consumers that use the website.”

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