With just 10 days left before the Covered California enrollment deadline, farm labor activist Dolores Huerta took her message to students at Fresno State today. As FM89's Joe Moore reports, it's part of a last minute push to boost enrollment figures among Latinos and young people.
Speaking to a class of students at Fresno State today, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta invoked memories of the civil rights movement to help spur young Latinos to sign up for health insurance.
Huerta: "When Cesar Chavez and I started organizing farmworkers back in the 1960's, this is what we were fighting for."
She told the students that it's important to enroll not just for their own health, but for their communities, and for the success of the Affordable Care Act.
Huerta: "If young people don't sign up, guess what? It's going to make it harder, right? And it may not work. Especially for people of color. If we don't sign up, we are actually not only damaging ourselves, because we're not protecting ourselves, but we're also not protecting our families and our whole communities."
Covered California's CEO Peter Lee joined Huerta for the Fresno event, and said the exchange has made progress in the last few months in reaching more Latinos.
Lee: "We always thought that enrollment in the Latino community would pick up over time. People who don't have insurance take more touches, more outreach, more education. And we've had more people in the community that are ready to help people out and get across that finish line."
The latest data show that about 32 percent of recent enrollees are Latino, up from 18 percent in December, Yet African American enrollment trails at less than 3 percent.
As the March 31st deadline nears, Lee says the exchange expects a new wave of consumers looking to enroll. That could be a problem though if people wait too long. A recent LA Times report suggests that over the last two months, nearly half of the calls to the Covered California exchange went unanswered.
Lee says the exchange is taking steps to deal with the last minute rush.
Lee: "We've hired over 250 more service center people to answer the phone, but don't want people to enroll over the phone. I mean they can, they can call the service center. But they really should find that help in the community."
He says enrolling online or through a local community group is another option. A major enrollment event will take place at the Fresno Fairgrounds on Saturday.