March 31 deadline looms for Covered California enrollment

March 31 deadline looms for Covered California enrollment »Play Video
Esther Guzman, left, gets insurance information from Janelle Hartley, right, Thursday March 13, 2014, during a Covered California rally in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — About 924,000 people have picked insurance plans through California's health care exchange as the race continues to attract more Latinos and younger people ahead of the enrollment deadline later this month.

"We've done a good job in this state, but we are not satisfied. We need to get more people insured," Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said Thursday during a rally at the historic Olvera Street Mexican marketplace in downtown Los Angeles.

Latinos and young adults have been hardest to reach since enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act. Of those enrolled in Covered California, 22 percent are Latino while 26 percent are between 18 and 34 years old.

During the next two weeks, enrollment drives will be held in schools, libraries and churches in a last-ditch effort to lure these two groups before the March 31 deadline. Insurance companies prize young adults because they balance out the cost of covering older people who tend to be sicker and require more medical attention. Since Latinos make up about half of the state's uninsured population and tend to be younger than the general population, they are an important target.

"We still need to go out there and educate more Latinos. They need to participate more and take advantage of this unique opportunity," said Hugo Ramirez, project director of Vision y Compromiso, an advocacy group.

The latest marketing campaign by Covered California to increase enrollment features four newly insured people who talk about how having coverage changed their lives. Of the $100 million budgeted for advertising and marketing, nearly half has been targeted to reach the Latino community, Lee said.

Esther Guzman and her husband traveled from Orange County to Olvera Street to buy a guacamole sauce and ended up with a pamphlet for their uninsured 26-year-old granddaughter.

"Since I came over here, I thought it would be nice to get some information for her, to kind of help her," said Guzman, 71.

While California leads the country in enrollment, the latest sign-up is still slightly short of original projections. Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that 4.2 million people nationally have signed up for health coverage.