For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Covered California, the country’s largest state-run health insurance marketplace, to scrap its usual bus tour to promote the program to residents, including, of course, its Hispanic population.
The organization instead staged the Coverage Matters virtual bus tour that included 11 events over eight days, including programming in Spanish.
“A significant portion of the state’s Hispanic population does not speak English, which means “they have difficulty understanding the healthcare system,” said Patricia Izquierdo, public information officer for Covered California.
The uninsured rate in California among Hispanics was 13.7% in 2019, which was more than double the rates among whites, 5.1%, and Blacks, 6.4%, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
To close that gap, Covered California conducted many of its virtual events during the enrollment period from November through January in Spanish, Izquierdo said. That included an in-person and virtual kickoff event in Sacramento featuring U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, a son of Mexican immigrants and former California attorney general.
Becerra recorded a video message in Spanish encouraging people to enroll in health coverage and answered media questions in English and Spanish.
Dolores Huerta, a Mexican-American civil rights activist who cofounded the National Farmworkers Association, also participated in a virtual event encouraging Latinos to participate in Covered California.
“We do want to say to all of the Latino community…that we need to get out there, we know that we are very vulnerable, the pandemic has shown us,” Huerta said, referring to the fact that Hispanics were almost twice as likely to die from COVID as the white, non-Hispanic population.
Izquierdo said people like Huerta and Becerra are crucial to the effort to enroll Latinos.
“One of the main points here is to have bilingual, recognized leaders because they can both attend the general media and the Spanish media,” said Izquierdo, who previously worked as a TV anchor and producer for English and Spanish language news organizations.
Covered California also staged 14 phone banks with Spanish-language TV stations to answer people’s questions and enroll them.
The organization set a goal of generating 200 media clips by the end of the campaign. To achieve that, Covered California worked with The Axis Agency, a multicultural marketing agency based in West Hollywood.
Their strategy included writing articles ready for print; sending reporters suggested question and answer scripts about Covered California; and conducting Facebook Live events, said Izquierdo, who immigrated to the U.S. from Colombia.
By the end of the enrollment period, they had 295 media clips, according to Izquierdo.
With the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations in decline, Izquierdo hopes the organization can return to in-person events for the next open enrollment period.
Covered California enrolled a record 1.8 million during the 2021-2022 period, an increase of more than 200,000 from the previous year, according to the organization. About a third of enrollees are typically Latino, while they make up almost 40% of the state’s population, according to Census data.
“I think Covered California has done a great job reaching our communities that speak Spanish, but we have more to do,” Izquierdo said.