Burwell's highest priority: get more Latinos insured

Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Mathews Burwell testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee May 14, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed, Burwell will succeed Kathleen Sebelius to become the next secretary of Health and Human Services.

The Senate votes today on the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell for Health and Human Services Secretary. And it’s a pretty good bet that high on her priority list will be enrolling Latinos in the Affordable Care Act. 

Latinos have the highest uninsured rates compared to other ethnic groups. They're also a younger segment of the overall population, and The White House has said enrolling young, healthy people is one of the keys to the success of the ACA.

So how to go about enrolling more Latinos in the ACA? Take Houston, Texas, for example, where nearly half the population is Latino, and where Benjamin Hernandez is assistant director of Health and Human Services.  He says one thing the new Secretary could do to help him boost Latino enrollment would be to give him access to real time data on who is signing up and where they live.

That is very helpful to us because we shift resources and people into those communities that aren’t getting the message,” says Hernandez.

Targeting those who aren’t getting the message is also the mission of Anne Filipic. She is president of Enroll America, which has collected data from the first enrollment period and is studying it to determine what got people to sign up for healthcare. “Specifically for Latinos, we do see that the in-person assistance, the presence in communities goes along way,” says Filipic.

Enroll America found that people who had personal assistance were about twice as likely to enroll, compared to people who just went online.  And Latinos and African-Americans were 43 percent more likely to seek that assistance than their white counterparts. 

Filipic says it’s also important for the new secretary of Health and Human Services to provide resources for on-the-ground workers in underserved communities, “and to make sure that they have the bilingual tools to reach consumers.”

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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