by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


21 August 2014

Only 15 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish

Posted in Health Insurance 101

Only 15 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish

A Covered California board meeting revealed only 15% of certified insurance agents speaks the language most commonly used by the highest uninsured population in California. Now it's clear why the state didn't reach its Latino enrollment goal

12,636 independent insurance agents are Covered California certified. That means only they can sell both types of insurance plans: those through the state exchange (Covered California) called "on-exchange" plans and private insurance plans called "off-exchange".

On-exchange plans additionally offer financial assistance, called subsidies or tax credits, but only to those who qualify. Nearly 2 million or 46% of Latinos is eligible for health insurance subsidies. Of that percentage, about 25% speaks Spanish primarily.

Latinos in California are more uninsured than any other demographic, which explains why agents and Covered California would seek them out. 

But when Covered California's website listed insurance agents by spoken language, only 15% were Spanish-literate, compared to 60% of Covered California councilors. One might assume the exchange had the upper hand, but by the end of open enrollment, independent agents enrolled more applicants than Covered California itself.

40% of all applicants enrolled through an agent while 9% signed up by phone or via online chat with a Covered California councilor. 44% of California's population speaks Spanish; that's over 2 million people, but only 252,000 Latinos signed up for health insurance last year; just shy of Covered California's 260,000 goal

Language barriers weren't the only reason Latino enrollment figures fell short. In the first 3 months of open enrollment, Covered California didn't have a functioning Spanish website. The same could be said about their English one, but at least it led to the English application. Broken links on "" misdirected applicants to the English form, causing muchos problemas. 

Eventually, the major bilingual issues were fixed, allowing for a smoother enrollment. To improve next Obamacare season, the exchange budgeted $100 million for Latino outreach to likely fund the continuation of their Spanish billboards in Los Angeles and commercials during telenovelas. 

Haronian Insurance agents speak Spanish, Tagalog, Farsi, Hebrew, and I'm forgetting one... Oh, right, English. Across the Obamacare Planet, only one place can translate wonky insurance terms to the language you know. French users, you're on your own. 

English 101: Don't be fooled by the wrong subject when turning a verb singular or plural. 

In the tile of this article, "!5 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish", what's wrong? "Agents speaks Spanish" sounds odd, but is correct. 

"15 Percent" is the subject and "Speaks" is the verb. "Of Covered California Agents" is a prepositional phrase because it starts with a preposition (of) and ends with a noun (Agents). 

Prepositional phrases serve a purpose, but not to the verb. They exist to answer: Which, When, How, and Where.

In this sentence, which speaks Spanish? Of Covered California agents? No. 15 percent speaks Spanish.

Do percentages confuse you into thinking they're plural? Do you say, "Two percent of my body is fat." or "Two percent of my body are fat."? Neither? Stop worrying about grammar and go work out!