Obamacare Website for Spanish Speakers Has Problems, Too

National Journal
Oct. 21, 2013, 3:42 p.m.

Lost in the hub­bub sur­round­ing the mal­func­tion­ing Health­Care.gov is an­oth­er missed dead­line and closed door for mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans seek­ing health in­sur­ance: Cuid­ado­De­Sa­lud.gov.

The Span­ish-lan­guage site still does not al­low con­sumers to en­roll for ex­change cov­er­age, a delay that was pre­vi­ously es­tim­ated by ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials to last un­til mid-Oc­to­ber.

A spokes­wo­man from the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment de­clined to com­ment on when con­sumers will be able to sign up for health in­sur­ance on Cuid­adoDe­Sa­lud.gov and wheth­er the ad­di­tion­al delay is re­lated to the mal­func­tions on the Eng­lish lan­guage site, Health­Care.gov.

Roughly 10.2 mil­lion Lati­nos in the United States do not have health in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to HHS data.

But Span­ish speak­ers — along with Amer­ic­ans frus­trated by the Health­Care.gov ex­per­i­ence — are be­ing dir­ec­ted to a toll-free num­ber, 800-318-2596, for help with the sign-up pro­cess, which Pres­id­ent Obama says would in­volve a 25-minute call for in­di­vidu­als and 45 minutes for fam­il­ies.

“Ad­di­tion­al fea­tures for on­line en­roll­ment will be avail­able as we make up­grades to the site,” HHS spokes­wo­man Joanne Peters said in an email.

On Cuid­adoDe­Sa­lud.gov, con­sumers can search for spe­cial­ists in their com­munit­ies who can as­sist in com­plet­ing pa­per ap­plic­a­tions. The site also con­tains edu­ca­tion­al in­form­a­tion about the Af­ford­able Care Act and ad­vert­ises the call cen­ter, which has bi­lin­gual staff on hand 24 hours a day, sev­en days a week.

To date, the call cen­ter has fielded 41,000 Span­ish-lan­guage calls, HHS said.

The con­tin­ued hol­dup of Cuid­adoDe­Sa­lud.gov has staff at the Na­tion­al His­pan­ic Lead­er­ship Agenda press­ing the White House to get a move on. The NHLA kicked off the Na­tion­al His­pan­ic Health Week of Ac­tion on Monday.

“This is a crit­ic­al pri­or­ity for the Latino com­munity, that they have ac­cess to af­ford­able health care,” NHLA Chair­man Hec­tor Sanc­hez said.

The NHLA is ad­vising com­munit­ies to ap­ply by phone and pa­per, but said it will likely have an­oth­er out­reach cam­paign once the Span­ish-lan­guage site be­gins ac­cept­ing ap­plic­a­tions.

“The mes­sage here is that we have six months to get this done,” Sanc­hez said. “Even with these glitches, the pro­cess is easi­er than it was be­fore.” 

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