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Florida's Insurers Push To Sell Health Coverage To Latinos

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For all of California's troubles advertising health care to Latinos, that state has embraced the Affordable Care Act and is spending millions of dollars to get people to sign up. Florida is a different story.

Florida has a high rate of uninsured Latinos - almost 10 percent of all the country's uninsured Hispanics who are eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act live in the state.

But Florida lawmakers rejected the Affordable Care Act from the beginning, even being party to a lawsuit to stop its implementation. When the ACA did become law, the state decided not to run its own exchange, and it has not expanded Medicaid. Governor Rick Scott has come out in favor of Medicaid expansion, but it's unlikely the legislature will go along with it this session.

Florida is not marketing the law to anybody. In the absence of state outreach efforts, it's up to the insurers and other groups to get the word out about Obamacare.

And Florida's Hispanics are a group they really want to reach. They tend to be younger and healthier than the rest of the population, so insurers want them because they may pay into the system more than they use in services. Having healthy young people on their rolls helps insurers balance the books.

Florida Blue, a large insurer, is trying to reach the population with a mix of old and new media. The company has developed a mobile phone app, because research shows that's how many Latinos access the Internet. Florida Blue is also partnering with Spanish-language bloggers and forming a partnership with Navarro, a Hispanic drug store. And they've been working with community health centers where Latinos go to the doctor, since face-to-face interaction is critical to reaching this demographic.

Churches, health centers and advocacy groups from within the Latino community have also been working on a grassroots level.

Spanish-language television is also playing a key role in Florida. Univision is partnering with rival Telemundo for Thursday's town hall with President Obama.

Univision's Stephen Keppel says his network is embedding messages about health care into their variety programming, such as Sábado Gigante and Despierta America.

This story is part of a partnership with NPR, WLRN and Kaiser Health News.

Copyright 2014 WLRN Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wlrn.org/.

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