California Struggling to Enroll African Americans in Obamacare

Soumya Karlamangla and Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2014

Latinos aren’t the only sore spot for Covered California heading into Monday’s enrollment deadline for Obamacare coverage.

Very few African Americans have signed up statewide, and there’s not much time to address the lackluster turnout. Wednesday, state officials reiterated that Monday remains the deadline for open enrollment. But the state will give Californians until April 15 to finish their application if they start it before midnight Monday.

Thus far, fewer than 3% of health plan enrollees identify themselves as African American, and that number hasn’t budged in weeks. About 17% of African Americans in California are uninsured, and overall they constitute about 7% of the state’s population.

But the state’s struggles at reaching uninsured Latinos have drawn far more attention and criticism among lawmakers and health law supporters. The pace of Latino sign-ups has picked up in recent weeks amid a multimillion-dollar marketing blitz. Overall, consumer interest is running high ahead of the deadline, with nearly 40,000 people enrolling Monday and Tuesday, the state said.

“The improving Latino numbers warm my heart,” said Robert Ross, a Covered California board member and chief executive of the California Endowment. “The African American numbers are really disappointing and disturbing.”


But some health-policy experts and community leaders say the low numbers underscore the challenges in expanding coverage to a historically underserved population. Overall, more than 1 million Californians have picked a health plan through the state exchange as of mid-March.


With the Monday deadline fast approaching, health plans, insurance agents and nonprofit groups are making a final push to boost enrollment among African Americans. Crenshaw Health Partners is hosting a five-hour enrollment event Sunday at an Inglewood high school billed as “Super Soul Sunday.”

Last weekend, the entrance to Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood was decorated with rainbow arches of balloons for an enrollment event. Disc jockeys from a local radio station played hip-hop music in the courtyard. Inside the massive church, about 100 people signed up for coverage.


Less than a mile away from the L.A. Care event in Inglewood, other enrollment organizers tried to drum up interest for Obamacare inside a nightclub. But the public turnout there was sparse.

Enrollment counselors sat in the black leather booths at the Savoy Entertainment Center waiting for people to show up. The event featured free lunch, a comedian and a mock “Jeopardy” game show on Obamacare basics. The speakers included a White House official and a representative of Enroll America, a nonprofit group promoting the Affordable Care Act nationwide.

Amid the jokes and games, however, health law supporters stressed how access to timely medical care could improve the lives of many African Americans who suffer from diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.

“When we think about what this law means for our community,” said Etoy Ridgnal, director of African American engagement for Enroll America, “it really can be the difference between life and death.”

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  • JackKrak

    Wait – so you’re saying that people who aren’t used to paying for anything are not rushing to sign up for a plan that they have to pay for in order to get what they now have for free?


    • MekongDelta69

      It won’t matter if they do or don’t.

      We will get to foot the bill either way – as we have been for the last 50 years.

  • Anglo

    Maybe I’m ignorant about how enrollment works, but aren’t most of these Blacks eligible for and/or on Medicaid anyway?

    • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

      Yes. The California version is called “Medi-Cal”.

  • Hound Dog

    The only time thugs put their name on a government computer system is when they get arrested.

  • Luca

    Well, heck, that’s because they’re not offering free ‘Bama phones, EBT or running shoes for signing up.

    • Black Swan

      Not yet.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    Of course they’re struggling to enroll blacks into Obamacare. Most blacks thought Obamacare was going to be free.

    • Not just blacks. I think a lot of low to medium information white voters thought ObamaCare would be free, or at least have some sort of free option for everyone. I also think Obama himself knew that people were thinking that, and he did nothing to dissuade them of that falsehood, and may have even helped peddle it in back channels, in order to squeak past his second election.

      Now the Indians are jumping over the walls.

  • Lure blacks and messycans into a government scam with jokes and games? What the …?
    These irresponsible, lazy, disengaged lowlifes do not belong in an advanced first world nation, which can exist only when individuals are responsible for themselves. Whites who believe in limited government must find a way to separate themselves from this undertow.

  • IstvanIN

    How difficult would it be to send an Obamacare Representative to the county lock-up and sign them up?

  • dd121

    Why would they pay for Obama care when all they have to do is go to an emergency room for free? It’s really not that complicated.

    • Black Swan

      They don’t even do that. They’ll call an ambulance to come and get them and take them there.

  • ZB

    Blacks are only now recently thrown into the ‘discussion’ about those “underrepresented” by ObamaCare. I’m sure you’ll all join me in the Pity Party. If you follow the LA Times to any great extent, up until now, all one would read about is ‘Latino’-this, ‘Latino’-that, ad nauseam, in relation to this socialist medical debacle. Now, apparently, it’s the Whites’ turn to be concerned about that traditional “other”, the Blacks.

  • MBlanc46

    Surely Obama and the Dems didn’t expect blacks and HIspanics to pay for something that they already get free from whitey.

  • FlaVet

    Christ…they’re too stupid to get ID…too stupid to use a PC ( but everyone of us pays for these morons through a tax on our cable, phones, etc. ). They must be taken by the hand…sung to…fed and stuffed with free food…told how great they would be if only they weren’t “oppressed”. I give up. After 50 + years every white American should just stay away from them. Nothing has changed since 1959…or 1964…except for the worse.

  • me

    Computers….and the websites don’t work. It’s a tragedy, I tell ya.

  • MooTieFighter

    You’re right on the money, and the whole reason this is failing in the black community.

  • TheCogitator

    Why would anyone expect them to sign up and agree to pay when they can do as they have always done and present their black self and say take care of me. And fools were are, we will do it — for free.

  • John K

    Why do they need Obamacare? Most are on welfare.

  • They voted for it, they should be forced into it!