ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This week, the Obama administration announced an effort to promote the new health insurance marketplaces to Latinos. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will make the rounds on Spanish-language media. Under the Affordable Care Act, people can start signing up to get insurance through the marketplaces on October 1. Some 10 million Latinos could gain coverage. Advocacy groups are trying to help Latinos sign up, as we hear from Jenny Gold in Maryland.
JENNY GOLD, BYLINE: It's a crowded morning at the legal clinic at CASA de Maryland, a nonprofit in suburban Washington serving the local Latino community. Elva Jaldin makes the rounds with her clipboard and health pamphlets. She's one of the center's 20 (foreign language spoken), health promoters who help explain things like vaccinations and diabetes to anyone coming in.
ELVA JALDIN: (Foreign language spoken)
GOLD: Today, she's telling women about breast cancer risk. Soon, she'll also be telling people like Andrea Velandia how to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Velandia is at CASA de Maryland with her toddler and newborn for help finishing her citizenship papers. Right now, like many Latinos, she's young and uninsured.
ANDREA VELANDIA: I just think it's very expensive to go to a doctor to get a regular checkup, whatever you are doing, a test or anything. It's just a lot of money. And you only have an option to go to the emergency room, which is even more expensive, I guess.
GOLD: So far, she's been able to make do.
VELANDIA: We're very healthy. Like, we don't have, like, many issues.
GOLD: And that makes her just the sort of person Obamacare needs most. The more young and healthy people who buy insurance in the new marketplaces, the less insurers have to pay in claims and the lower premiums will be. And so the state gave CASA de Maryland a grant to hire a dozen new employees called navigators to work fulltime on enrollment in their centers. Here's health director George Escobar.
GEORGE ESCOBAR: Plus we'll have navigators, basically mobile navigators that will be working in the community, that will be enrolling - educating and enrolling people in businesses, at supermarkets, at community events, weekends, evenings.
GOLD: It may not be easy. The debate over the Affordable Care Act a few years ago focused largely on Latinos who are not eligible: undocumented immigrants. Jennifer Ng'andu works on health policy at the National Council of La Raza.
JENNIFER NG'ANDU: So the takeaway often from that public message was there isn't really anything in the Affordable Care Act for the Latino community. Many people forgot to talk about the fact that there are a broad set of Latinos, in fact, most who are here lawfully present and who will gain the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
GOLD: She says the current debate over immigration reform is adding more fear and confusion, especially in families where some people are citizens and others are not.
NG'ANDU: Even if everyone in that household is legal, they still have different eligibility from each other. And so teasing all of that out can be difficult.
GOLD: In California, Spanish-language media are proving to be a key part of the push. The California Endowment, a foundation based in LA, is sponsoring a series of ads on Spanish networks Univision, Telemundo and ImpreMedia. One of them features celebrity psychologist Doctora Isabel.
(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)
DR. ISABEL GOMEZ-BASSOLS: (Foreign language spoken)
DANIEL ZINGALE: Dr. Isabel's ad is a good example of how you have to tailor the message for the audience.
GOLD: Daniel Zingale runs the endowment's outreach campaign. He says it's not enough just to translate an English ad into Spanish. You also have to address the cultural differences. He points to an ad in English featuring Dr. Oz.
(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)
DR. MEHMET OZ: The new healthcare law has so much in it that could help Californians get better and more affordable healthcare. Get educated. Get engaged. Get enrolled.
ZINGALE: In the Dr. Oz ad, he speaks in language that's very familiar to those in mainstream English language press, but in the Spanish language ad with Dr. Isabel, she describes Obamacare as a blessing and we learned early on that that was language that was appropriate to that audience.
GOLD: That message will also reach the millions of undocumented Latino immigrants. But the law bars them from purchasing insurance on the exchanges. CASA de Maryland's George Escobar says their job is not only to enroll people who do qualify, it's also to help those who don't find other options for care. For NPR News, I'm Jenny Gold.
SIEGEL: Jenny Gold is with our partner Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service.
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