Black Enrollment Rate for Health Coverage Needs to Increase, says Health Agency


African-American healthcare enrollment through Covered California was at a rate of four percent during the latest open enrollment period.

Covered California spokesperson Dana Howard said on Feb. 26, the state-ran marketplace for health insurance is enthusiastic that 9,610 of the Golden State’s new healthcare enrollees identified themselves as Black, although Howard admitted more work needs to be done.

“The rate of enrollment should be at five percent,” he said, “and we still have a long way to go to get to five percent enrollment in the African-American community.”

From November 2015 until Feb. 6, Covered California statistics reveal that 439,392 Californians signed-up for health insurance. Of the enrollees, 263,910 people answered the race or ethnicity questions while signing up for medical insurance.

The enrollment numbers of Black residents in the Golden State trailed behind other races such as Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic, but was ahead of ethnic categories including Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; and American Indian or Alaskan Native; and enrollees that identified as Multiple Races. People that identified as “Other” equaled the enrollment percentage of African Americans.

Howard said he does not believe the African-American Obamacare enrollees will ever match other ethnic groups such as Asians or Latinos, so Covered California focuses on the rate of enrollment in each community.

In 2014, the enrollment rate was three percent, and in 2015 it was four percent.

The spokesman said the health insurance agency would like to raise the rate of insurance one digit in the Black community, from 36 to 38 percent in the Hispanic community, and from 18 percent to 20 percent in the Asian community.

“We still have a high volume of African-Americans to enroll,” Howard said.

In order to increase the enrollment rate in the Black community, Howard said Covered California continued its marketing and advertising geared towards Blacks led by Los Angeles-based Largent Communications, which handles the paid advertising, and Bay Area-based Carol H. Williams, which handled outreach, marketing and events.

Howard said one of the enrollment themes was “Don’t leave your money on the table,” which highlighted how financial assistance is available to pay for health insurance. He noted families that get health coverage through Covered California could receive an average of $5,000 in financial help and avoid IRS fines and penalties for not having health insurance.

During the enrollment period, Howard said Covered California did more outreach to ZIP codes with high populations of African Americans in cities including Oakland, Richmond, Sacramento, Moreno Valley, Fontana, Inland Empire, Inglewood, the Crenshaw district in Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The outreach included flyers and radio and newspaper advertisements.

“We did broad and in-depth outreach,” he said.

Howard added that he hopes the enrollment numbers for Blacks in different areas of the state will be available in the coming week.

Covered California, he added,will continue to tweak their outreach to the African-American community in order to increase the enrollment rate.

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