Obama administration officials disputed late Wednesday the assertions that Latinos are being short-changed because the White House has not launched a Spanish-language website for enrolling in the president’s health care program.
At the same time, White House officials said in a statement to Fox News Latino that most Latinos would not be inconvenienced, because “our market research shows 70 percent will apply in English.”
The statement, which White House officials asked to be attributed only to an “administration official,” said that although Latinos cannot yet register online in Spanish because that function is not operating, they can read information on the site about the health care law, and where to go in their communities for help in filling out applications or getting answers to their questions.
Market research suggests Latino consumers prefer personalized assistance which is currently available through call centers and navigators.
- Obama Administration official
Besides, the statement noted, “market research suggests Latino consumers prefer personalized assistance which is currently available through call centers and navigators.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said the administration was slighting Latinos because “the Spanish-language Obamacare website hasn’t even been launched.”
Slightly more than 30 percent of Latinos – who number 53 million in the United States – lack health care coverage. In surveys of Latino adults, a majority indicate support for the Affordable Care Act.
The official said that the White House is addressing the various glitches that the entire system for signing up for the Affordable Care Act is experiencing, and that similar work is being done on the Spanish-language site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov.
“The enrollment tools [for the Spanish site] will be unveiled in the next few weeks, enabling Americans to enroll in the Marketplace in Spanish online,” the statement said. “This effort will help ensure that CuidadoDeSalud will be ready to intake large traffic, and provide an efficient and informative experience for consumers.”
Rubio, who opposes the Affordable Care Act, said on Tuesday that he plans to introduce legislation next week delaying the penalty assessed to people who do not buy insurance by March.
“Hispanics have among the highest uninsured rates in the nation,” said the Florida Republican in a statement. “Yet despite hundreds of millions of dollars devoted to a Spanish-language propaganda campaign, the Spanish-language Obamacare website hasn’t even been launched.”
“It’s not fair to punish anyone for not buying Obamacare when the website they are supposed to buy it on doesn’t work,” he said.
Administration officials said that thus far, call centers have received 41,000 Spanish-language calls.
Meanwhile, frustrated Democrats lamented Wednesday that persistent problems with new health care exchanges have inflicted damage on the public's perception of the already unpopular "Obamacare" — with some lawmakers insisting President Barack Obama should ensure those responsible lose their jobs.
Emerging from a closed-door briefing with health officials from the Obama administration, House Democrats appeared to have at least as many questions as answers about how and when the beleaguered website will be fixed. Although they resolved not to let setbacks with one aspect of the health law outshine the parts that are working, they griped that the shoddy website had given Republicans an opening to do just that.
“The ObamaCare rollout sends a clear message to Spanish speakers: If you speak Spanish, my administration didn't bother to create a functional website for you,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Izzy Santa. “The fact that the Spanish site isn’t ready for ‘primetime’ is just further proof this is an unworkable law and even Democrats are starting to agree that something needs to give.”
Some Latino organization representatives said they found the administration’s seemingly dismissive reaction to Latinos not being able to register online troubling and insulting.
“Hispanics are among the most social media-active communities in the United States,” said Emily Benavides, communications director for the Hispanic Leadership Network, a self-described center-right group that seeks to bolster Latino support for the Republican Party.”Having a website that functions for them to apply and register for coverage in their chosen language, be it English or Spanish, is important, and it needs to function properly.”
Benavides, who said her organization has not taken a position on the Affordable Care Act, added: “Even the administration considers the enrollment of Hispanics to be critical to the success of the program.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.