Archived: Crunch Time for Covered California


There are just two weeks left to sign up young Latinos by the March 31 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) deadline. So it’s crunch time, or should we say time for “Days of Action” as Covered California’s latest campaign effort is being called.

With numbers far below those needed to meet the state health agency’s goal for Latino enrollment, it’s hard to understand why enrollment numbers have fallen so far behind expectations.

Given the millions of dollars spent on advertising and other outreach efforts, it’s unsettling that Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee and all the other allied groups haven’t been able to figure out a winning strategy to drive enrollment.

On the whole, California’s Latino population is younger than other groups and probably for the most part healthy. Many believe the ravages of age are still somewhere in the distant future, leading many to believe they do not need health insurance.

Latinos’ youth and physical wellness makes them very important to the overall success of the program, including financially.

But it’s hard to commit to enrolling in something when you can’t quickly see what your rate will be. You heard people you know and trust say it costs too much, so is it any wonder that many young people, Latinos included, think it will be cheaper just to pay the fine?

Cellular phone companies, auto insurance companies and fitness centers all prominently display their enrollment costs in their advertising. The advertised fees may not apply to everyone, but they help decide whether they can afford to take a closer look.

Telling young Latinos who have to worry about paying for rent, school tuition, car insurance, gasoline, groceries and other necessities that the cost of insurance is irrelevant because it will benefit them some day if they get sick or have an accident, is a message that falls on deaf ears.

The $94 fine, (many don’t know it’s that or one percent of their earnings), for the first year with out health coverage is a cost young people consider doable, especially when the actual cost of the insurance is unknown. And if they do have a real health emergency, no hospital is going to turn them away.

We agree that way of thinking is wrong, but as long as Covered California is unable to convince young Latinos otherwise, it’s going to take much longer for the agency to meet its enrollment goals.

It’s crunch time and we will be watching to see if Covered California’s Days of Action pay off.


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