Troubles for federal health care website for Spanish speakers

  • Article by: RUSSELL CONTRERAS and KELLI KENNEDY , Associated Press
  • Updated: January 13, 2014 - 12:59 AM

Clunky translations and links to English forms are just some of the problems.

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Jan. 8, 2014: Yolanda Madrid of Miami, left, talks with navigator Daniela Campos, right, while signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, in Miami. Mirroring problems with the federal health care website, people around the nation attempting to navigate the Spanish version have discovered their own set of difficulties.

Photo: Lynne Sladky, AP

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– Mirroring problems with the federal health care website, people attempting to navigate the Spanish version have discovered their own set of problems.

The site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months late.

Until recently, a Web page with Spanish instructions linked users to a form that was in English.

And the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution of health.”

“When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them,” said Adrian Madriz, a health care navigator who helps people enroll in Miami.

The issues with the site underscore the halting efforts across the nation to get Spanish speakers enrolled under the federal health care law.

Critics said that many people whom the law was meant to help have been left out of the first wave of coverage.

Federal officials said they are working to make the site better and plan further improvements.

“We continue to work closely with key stakeholders to get feedback in order to improve the experience for those consumers that use the website,” said Health and Human Services Department spokesman Richard Olague.

Still, efforts to enroll Spanish-speakers have fallen short in several states with large Hispanic populations, and critics said the translated version of HealthCare.gov could have helped boost those numbers.

In California, officials said fewer than 5,500 people signed up for health care in Spanish in October and November. About 4.3 million California residents speak only Spanish, according to census data.

It’s not clear how many of these residents are without health insurance, but observers say few groups are more vulnerable.

“Spanish speakers are typically the ones who need to sign up for health insurance,” said Veronica Plaza, who teaches medical Spanish at the University of New Mexico.

In New Mexico, the state with the nation’s highest percentage of Latino residents and where more than 20 percent of the state’s population goes without health insurance, fewer than 1,000 people total signed up for coverage in October and November.

In Florida, federal officials have not said how many of the state’s nearly 18,000 enrollees for October and November were Latino, but that group accounts for about one-third of the state’s roughly 3.5 million uninsured people.

Across the U.S., about 12 percent of the 317 million people in the country speak only Spanish, but federal officials have said less than 4 percent of calls to a national hot line were Spanish-only as of last month.

Many blame at least some of the enrollment problems on the trouble-plagued site.

“In my opinion, the website doesn’t work,” said Grettl Diaz, a Miami gas station cashier who is originally from Cuba.

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