With barely three days until the registration deadline, only three percent of California’s 17 percent African-American uninsured population have enrolled in Obamacare.

“The African American numbers are really disappointing and disturbing,” says Robert Ross, a Covered California board member and chief executive of the California Endowment.

Ross has asked state officials to examine outreach efforts to African Americans – including enrollment events at mall kiosks, churches and even a nightclub – and any lessons to be learned before the next open enrollment in November.

Looking at the state as a whole, more than 1 million residents have chosen a plan through the health exchange as of mid-March. Some experts say the low African-American enrollments only underscore the challenges in expanding coverage to historically underserved communities. “It’s not easy,” says Dr. Brownell Payne, a physician who works with Crenshaw Health Partners, a state-certified enrollment group.

Yet others say attempts to ramp up Spanish-language marketing may have taken away from outreach to other minorities. Latino signups have increased in recent weeks amid a multimillion dollar marketing blitz.

“From Covered California all the way down, there just hasn’t been a lot of outreach” in African-American neighborhoods, says Carla Singleton, a marketing manager for L.A. Care.

But at this point, there isn’t much more time to address the low turnouts. Monday remains the deadline for open enrollment. However, California is one of the states that will give enrollees until April 15 to finish their application if they start it before midnight on Monday.


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