The White House officials recently announced that the Spanish-language version of the website healthcare.gov will not be up and running by October 1st, when the so-called Obamacare (or Affordable Care Act) begins. The webpage ciudadodesalud.gov is expected to be ready to handle online enrollments for the new Health Insurance Exchanges by mid-October, instead. The Act will make around 10 million Latinos eligible for health care, largely affecting the Latino population in the United States of which one out of three is currently uninsured.
The problem behind the delay is that around four million Latinos speak mainly Spanish, rendering the process of enrollment inaccessible to a large percentage of the population. To this, the White House responded that there are Spanish-language resources which are already available online and that there will be alternatives for the Spanish-speaking population. Said alternatives include the live web chat function available in ciudadodesalud.gov, through which Spanish speakers will receive instructions on how to navigate through the English version of the enrollment process on healthcare.gov. Another alternative will be a paper application released on October 1st, accompanied by a phone service in Spanish for support.
The Government’s Perspective
In their defence, White House officials stated that, compared to the time other federal government programs generally take until they make Spanish webpages available (usually years), a couple of days and weeks makes no real difference. They further added that the website will be released in tandem with the National Hispanic Week of Action. Even in spite of the delay, the administration expects to achieve at least 70 per cent of online enrollment through the English language site.
Dr. Jane Delgado from the National Alliance for Hispanic Health in Washington states that it is better to get it right the first time instead of just releasing a poor-quality website with inappropriate information. John Arensmeyer, from the Small Business Majority, stated that, given that Obamacare will be a major reform to the American healthcare system, a delay of a month is not such an important setback.
Concerns from the Opposition
On the other hand, there has been some concern on the part of other important Hispanic American organizations. Jennifer Ng’andu, from the National Council of La Raza, stated that it is important that the community believes in the new measure. She adds that, due to the delay, people might open the website and think that there is nothing for them available there and decide to leave. The main concern revolves around the fact that, after such great efforts to highlight October 1st as the opening of enrollment, there will be people who miss out on the opportunity due to lack of information. There are also those who deem the Week-of-Action argument irrelevant given that the Hispanic Heritage Month has started on September, 15.
This delay can be added to that of enrollment services for employers with 50 workers or less, who will not be able to sign up their staff for private insurance until November 1st. The White House stated that this is due to technical problems, even though they did not provide any further information about the nature of the problems. Obamacare has required the creation of a huge information technology infrastructure to accommodate the requirements of federal agencies, individual states and insurance companies, as around seven million people are expected to sign up during the first year after only.