After its launch was delayed several times, Cuidadodesalud.gov – the Spanish equivalent of Healthcare.gov – went live Friday,according to a Center for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman. It was a “soft launch,” CMS cautioned, and by January promotional efforts will be made to drive Spanish-speakers to the site.
CMS said the soft launch will give them the opportunity to receive feedback from stakeholders on the experience of navigating the site.
“This will feed into our real time work to help our efforts to continue to improve the system,” CMS said.
D.C. Health Link,the health exchange for residents of the District does not have Spanish site yet and no date has been set for the launch, Richard Sorian,a spokesman for the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority said. The exchange authority has said the Spanish site will launch by the end of the year.
According to CMS,10.2 million uninsured Latinos may be eligible for coverage through the marketplace. Of these, 3.8 million are Spanish dominant.
As they waited for a working site,some Spanish speakers used translators and call centers to help them navigate the exchange.
Health–care providers noticed an increase in Spanish-speaking people seeking help for enrolling in the insurance exchanges,but nothing they weren’t expecting from the rollout of the federal exchange sites.
“It’s a crazy job right now,” Alicia Wilson,executive director of La Clínica del Pueblo in Washington, said. “It’s getting better as the exchange gets better, but it’s pretty intense in that we have patients and visitors at all levels of sophistication in being able to navigate a system like this.”
Nine people are trained to aid patients in navigating the exchange in Spanish at La Clínica,which primarily sees Latinos who prefer to receive services in Spanish. The clinic received $300,000 for these purposes in August. A total of $6.4 million was awarded for training on-site helpers in the District.
Wilson said the enrollment process can take multiple visits of several hours each. Some people,Wilson said,need help creating e-mail accounts or using a computer before they can even attempt to sign up.
Those who seek help at La Clínica,Wilson said,tend to be more comfortable with face-to-face interactions,so Wilson doesn’t foresee a decrease in those seeking help once the site is fully functional.
“This is an unbelievable complex law with an unbelievably complex set of requirements and concept,” Wilson said.
The National Alliance for Hispanic Health, took 9,608 calls from Oct. 1 to Nov. 10 and had to hire eight additional people to staff its national call center, alliance President and CEO Jane Delgado said.
“We were able to do this when we went into quick ramp up mode. We were able to successfully deal with the calls because of the 11 people,” Delgado said.
Reach reporter Andrés Rodríguez at [email protected] or 202- 326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.