Exclusive: Spanish HealthCare.Gov Set For Soft Launch Next Month

The Obama administration is planning a soft launch for the Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov in early December, after a two-month delay, a senior administration official told TPM Tuesday.

The site’s enrollment tools will go live in the near future, and the administration plans to ask key outreach groups — Enroll America, Planned Parenthood, Voto Latino among them — to guide users through the process and provide feedback, the official said. It will be live for anyone to use, but, at first, the launch won’t be widely advertised. Instead, the administration is hoping to identify any problems with the site’s performance by testing it with select organizations and their constituents.

The administration was forced to delay enrollment on the Spanish-language website, which currently offers only informational materials, shortly before HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1. The enrollment tools were initially expected to go live in mid-October, but were then effectively delayed indefinitely after that deadline passed.

As with its English-language counterpart, CuidadoDeSalud.gov will be judged by its error rate and response time. Soon after this newly announced beta testing period begins and continuing into January, the administration will ramp up its outreach efforts with Spanish-speaking communities, according to the official.

The timeline for signing people up for coverage that starts Jan. 1 will be tight: That deadline is Dec. 23. The final enrollment deadline is March 31, 2014.

The administration projects 10.2 million uninsured Latinos will be eligible to sign up for coverage. Federal call centers have so far fielded about 107,000 Spanish-language calls, according to the official, three percent of their total volume.

Though national Latino advocacy groups have been generally supportive of the health care reform law, they have begun to voice frustration about the delays to the Spanish-language website.

“We can’t afford to lose this option for the Latino community. The Latino community has been fundamentally underserved by health care as it exists today,” Jennifer Ng’andu, health and civil rights policy director at National Council of La Raza, one of the country’s largest Latino advocacy groups, told BuzzFeed earlier this month. “Obviously things like not having the Spanish-language website up have frustrated the situation.”

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