Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Every Thursday, my daily live radio show (The Harry Jackson Show) focuses on health. During the past year, discussions with health and fitness experts have revealed that there is no easy fix to being healthy. The government can’t legislate it and so it is amazing how much weight has been put into Obamacare as the one-stop-shop for health and wholeness. And the cookie cutter formula is to be inclusive of all people, no matter their health history or ethnic origin. It is no wonder that the initial sign up for Obamacare has been underwhelming.

In particular, few Latinos signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Many analysts are asking why this group did not participate in the open enrollment. According to the White House, at least 10.2 million Hispanics in America are currently uninsured, and over 80 percent of these would likely qualify for coverage subsidies. Originally, the White House had hoped six million members of America’s largest ethnic minority would have enrolled by now, but early reports suggest the actual numbers will be much lower.

"The enrollment rate for Hispanic-Americans seems to be very low, and I would be really concerned about that," lamented health policy specialist Mark McClellan of the Brookings Institution. There is has been much speculation about why those numbers are so low. At least one probable factor is the tremendous amount of personal information individuals are required to disclose when they sign up. In addition to worrying about hackers, many Hispanics were also concerned that the information gathered about them might be used to deport relatives who are in the United States illegally.

It is an interesting moment for the President’s appeal among Latinos. Over 70 percent supported him in his reelection bid, and Gallup polls showed 61 percent of Hispanics approved of the ACA as recently as last September. However, support began to drop steadily after the problematic rollout last October. A more recent poll shows the Hispanic community evenly split, with 47 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.

Many experts also point to multiple problems with the Spanish-language ACA website and the weak outreach efforts to the Latino community. As early as January, the Associated Press reported that CuidadoDeSalud.gov—in addition to launching over two months late—was full of grammatical errors that made the site frustrating and confusing to users. (This led to speculation that the content had been translated by machine.) Furthermore, many of the links directed users to fill out English versions of the enrollment forms, a daunting task for a non-English speaker.

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.