Spanish-Speaking Community Outreach Linked to High Levels of Affordable Care Act Enrollment
As this year’s enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act draws to a close, a number of areas are reporting that their sign-ups far exceed last year’s numbers. Of these regions, Miami-Dade County appears to be leading the way: with nearly 400,000 enrollments, the area has more new participants than any other county in Florida and 43 other states. Like many other counties in the Sunshine State, this victory seems to be due largely to the efforts of various individuals, groups and organizations, many of which focused on providing resources for Hispanic communities interested in the program.
Across the United States, Florida is currently breaking records when it comes to the Affordable Care Act: with 1.6 million sign-ups, the state has surpassed a number of expert projections for 2015 and is leading nationwide enrollment. Currently, a significant amount of this success appears to be coming from Miami-Dade County. According to a report from the nonprofit organization Enroll America, which used data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the region has a total of 392,231 plan selections. Broward County and Palm Beach County follow, with 221,758 and 136,612 plan selections respectively. Together, these three counties are responsible for about 47% of Florida’s total enrollment. Moreover, with the 6,844 consumers enrolled in Monroe County, these four counties in Southern Florida surpass enrollment in 47 other states.
These results don’t appear to be accidental: Milton Vazquez, the Florida spokesman of Enroll America, said that his organization had focused on South Florida from the beginning because of its high rate of uninsured residents compared to the rest of the state. Even so, he remarked that the level of success in these areas was still surprising and unexpected.
The new enrollment rate stands in sharp contrast to previous numbers: for example, in 2011, research showed that more than one in three residents in Miami-Dade County were uninsured, equal to around 750,000 people. To successfully target these areas, especially in a shorter enrollment period, nonprofit organizations say they turned to health counselors who would be trusted in the community. Usually, this meant looking for people who could speak popular local languages, particularly Spanish and Creole.
“We see large communities that are Hispanic, that are more likely to be uninsured, and you make services accessible by providing language,” Cristina Calvillo-Rivera, a campaign outreach manager with the Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit group which targets millennial enrollment, told the Miami Herald. “That is so important to these communities.”
According to the data, the approach worked. All of Florida’s counties increased their number of sign-ups by at least 45%, with Miami-Dade seeing a rise of about 52%. However,Dixie County lead the way with a 210% growth, although its actual numbers were low. Another four counties — Hamilton, Holmes, Hendry and Jefferson — also saw at least 120% increases in their enrollments, but the number of enrollments themselves were also small.
In these more rural areas, experts say that these huge percentage increases were more likely due to word of mouth, rather than organizational support. While Census data shows that Hispanic populations are smaller in these areas, many advocates are still hopeful that this signifies the impact their communities can have when they pick up some D ring binders and clipboards, and rally around important issues. As the 2016 election and other important milestones approach, it is likely that many of these groups will be investing in supplies and reaching out to Spanish-speaking individuals to communicate their points and convey a legitimate image; after all, nearly eight of 10 people think unorganized clutter can hamper productivity, and productivity is exactly what these issues need.
Despite their current victories, however, a number of existing operations say they are already at work, brainstorming ways to redefine their strategies for the next enrollment period. Already, the number of sign ups is projected to slow. The experts say their new plans will attempt to mimic their success in Miami-Dade and other counties by focusing on the best way to appeal to each region and its population.