In another delay for the Affordable Care Act, White House officials quietly told Hispanic groups on Wednesday that the Spanish-language version of the healthcare.gov website will not be ready to handle online enrollments until mid-October.
Latinos are the most uninsured group in the United States and stand to benefit the most from the legislation. Nearly one in three Latinos, 31 percent, are uninsured.
An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage under the ACA, the so-called Obamacare, beginning October 1st — and 4 million of them speak Spanish primarily.
The website, Cuidadodesalud.gov, is already providing Spanish-language resources, but uninsured Spanish-language only Latinos won't be able to enroll in the new Health Insurance Exchanges, offering insurance options for a price, until the week of October 21st.
"Typically, when the federal government puts forward an enormous program like this, as a community we have had to wait often years to get to the point where all the services are available in Spanish," one White House official said, downplaying the delay. "In this case we are talking about days or weeks, not even months ... a big difference."
The Obama administration said it will coordinate the release of the website with a planned "National Hispanic Week of Action," underscoring the importance of the Latino community taking part of the program. Even so, the delay is a cause for concern for some of the key Hispanic American organizations President Barack Obama is heavily counting on to reach out to uninsured Latinos on the ground.
"You need to role out the Spanish language at the same time as the English," said Jennifer Ng'andu, who is fronting the National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) grassroots Affordable Care Act outreach efforts, to Fox News Latino.
"You need to make sure that the community has trust. It is a real concern that someone goes to a website, after all this fever pitch around October 1st, and then they walk away," she said. "If a business had a grand opening and wasn’t fully functional they are going to be judged by that. Right now, we are being told officials are doing everything in their power."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said there are a number of tools still available for Spanish-language Hispanic families between now and mid-October. For instance, Spanish-language users can use the live web chat function on Cuidadodesalud.gov to speak to someone in Spanish who can walk through the English version insurance enrollment process on healthcare.gov.
A paper application is also going to be available in Spanish on October 1st. Those needing help with the paper application can be walked through the process by phone in Spanish or via the live web chat.
The online delay highlights the importance of the ground campaign by NCLR and 24 other Latino community groups that are primarily using their own funds to reach out to 15 million uninsured Latinos nationwide. The Department of Health has also granted $54 million to organizations to train "Navigators" or acting Obamacare experts who will setup shop in libraries, community health centers, and other local areas.
Still, HHS, the NCLR and others point out that the uninsured community has at least six months to enroll and educate themselves on the ACA.
"I think people are making October 1st the drop dead date when it’s not," said Dr. Jane Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, to Fox News Latino. "But people have to make this decision thoughtfully."