Covered California and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced this month that a significant increase of African Americans and Latinos have applied for health care coverage in the first part of the 2014-15 open enrollment period scheduled to end on Feb. 15. The enrollment numbers are said to far outpace figures collected by March 2014.

“It appears that our marketing and outreach are working to get people in the door,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. “The job now is to get them across the finish line.”

Through Jan. 12, 311,741 Californians were determined to be eligible for coverage; an additional 228,766 have selected a plan. The group of consumers determined eligible for private coverage—who provided information about their race/ethnicity—was 50 percent Latino, 23 percent White, 11 percent Asian and 6 percent African American.

“The new data show that the efforts to focus more outreach in these communities are finding many Californians who still want and need coverage,” said Toby Douglas, DHCS director. “We are very pleased with the success so far.”

Better marketing is said to have resulted in the increase in enrollment among minorities. The group of consumers who took the next step after eligibility determination and selected a plan through Covered California—including information about race/ethnicity—was reportedly less diverse but still more inclusive of minorities than it was in March 2014. The numbers indicated that 38 percent of White, 28 percent of Latino, 19 percent of Asian and 3 percent of African Americans decided to sign up with state-run coverage as opposed to selecting private health care provider.

Covered California reportedly made significant changes in consumer outreach. They are operating 18 percent more English- and Spanish-language advertising campaigns, particularly for the Latino community in purchasing 27 percent more advertising spots in print and on radio and television. Also, officials have increased the number of Spanish-speaking service center representatives.

This year, Covered California has reportedly increased its share of paid advertising aimed at the African American community from 7 percent in 2013-14 to 9.9 percent this year, including print and electronic advertising in African American-owned media outlets. They’ve also increased their presence in Black churches and other community groups to promote enrollment.

“One of the lessons learned last year is that partnerships matter and are transformative,” Lee explained. “We are very pleased to see that some of our new marketing and outreach efforts are showing signs of success.”

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