October 16, 2014; Greenlining Institute

Greenlining’s Carla Saporta reports that Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, is recruiting a diversity officer. In Greenlining’s view, it couldn’t be too soon. Greenlining issued a report this past summer on Covered California, suggesting that the state’s strong performance in getting people to sign up for insurance was undermined by problems in outreach to communities of color, particularly to populations for whom English might not be their primary language.

The Greenlining Institute findings are consistent with early reports on the Affordable Care Act that said cultural minorities encountered more barriers to enrollment and coverage than whites. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, of the remaining uninsured population in California, six out of ten are Latino, and nearly two-thirds of uninsured Latinos prefer to communicate in Spanish. Latinos are not the only linguistic minority that might be facing barriers at Covered California. In Merced, Healthy House is working to enroll Hmong families for health insurance, addressing the language and institutional barriers the Hmong encounter.

In its report, Greenlining had recommended that Covered California appoint “a dedicated staff person…to ensure that Covered California’s outreach efforts are culturally and linguistically appropriate for every community the health benefit exchange needs to reach.” What is noteworthy about the Greenlining report is that it is an example of the kind of combined research and advocacy that Greenlining does well to push public agencies to change their practices. As a nonprofit advocate, Greenlining is dogged and sometimes ruffles feathers, but that’s what effective advocacy often entails.—Rick Cohen