AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We turn now to the Affordable Care Act. Getting Latinos to sign up for health insurance is seen as critical to the law's success. The population is disproportionately uninsured and relatively young. But the sign up effort hasn't been going well. So, today, President Obama appeared at a town hall style event hosted by the nation's two largest Spanish language TV networks, Univision and Telemundo. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken )
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Muchas gracias.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
: And as the questions came, some of the challenges the president and his administration faces in selling the healthcare law came into focus.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
: There was a question on video from a woman in California who's undocumented but who has children who are citizens. Her worry, that by signing her children up for health insurance, she'll open herself up to deportation. President Obama tried to be reassuring.
OBAMA: None of the information that is provided in order for you to obtain health insurance is any way transferred to immigration services.
: But follow-up questions indicate a lack of trust remains. And on the question of cost, the president was asked if the Affordable Care Act is really affordable.
OBAMA: For a lot of people, it's going to be less than $100 a month, which people can afford. In some cases, for young people, it might be as little as 50 or 40 or $30 a month. If that makes sense to you, then take advantage of this now.
: But that argument may not resonate with many Latinos. Amelia Goldsmith is a healthcare navigator at the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society in Richmond. A couple of weeks ago, she was helping a Spanish-speaking woman find insurance that would, on its face, seem like a bargain - $40 a month with a $200 deductible.
AMELIA GOLDSMITH: This woman was saying, so I need to pay this amount every single month, and then I have to pay this amount in order to get assistance as well?
: She said, this woman and a number of people she's worked with in recent months simply didn't understand the language of copays and deductibles. The woman got medical care at a free community health clinic and had never dealt with insurance before.
GOLDSMITH: Explaining, yes, that is something that you would need to do was something that really didn't make sense for her and her personal situation since she has a card to get free medical assistance because she's uninsured.
: The fact that outreach campaigns hadn't accounted for this is just one symptom of what some say has been a botched effort to sell the Affordable Care Act to Latinos. For instance, the Spanish language version of HealthCare.gov wasn't available until December. And it was just a poorly translated version of the English website, says Gabriel Sanchez. He is director of Research for Latino Decisions and has done extensive polling on this.
GABRIEL SANCHEZ: I think they have cast a very wide net and hoped along the way Latinos specifically would get on board, but they really haven't done things really culturally sensitive and directed particularly at the Latino population.
: Instead of starting with what would resonate with Latinos, outreach campaigns were developed in English for English-speaking audiences and then translated, says political consultant Fernand Amandi. It didn't work.
FERNAND AMANDI: And it's not just a health insurance need. It's an economic need. And the fact that there is something within reach, yet it is in this case explicitly being lost in translation is, I think, a great tragedy.
: This year's open enrollment period is set to end March 31st, which means there isn't much time to adjust the pitch. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.