Obamacare Spanish language website a comedy of errors
Obamacare's new and improved Spanish language website rolled out and promptly flopped, as myriad problems emerged that made it impossible for many to sign up for insurance.
Some of the problems are shockingly funny.
Mirroring problems with the federal health care website, people around the nation attempting to navigate the Spanish version have discovered their own set of difficulties.
The site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months late.
A Web page with Spanish instructions linked users to an English form.
And the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated - the name of the site itself can literally be read "for the caution of health."
"When you get into the details of the plans, it's not all written in Spanish. It's written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them," said Adrian Madriz, a health care navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.
The issues with the site underscore the halting efforts across the nation to get Spanish-speakers enrolled under the federal health care law. Critics say that as a result of various problems, including those related to the website, many people whom the law was designed to help have been left out of the first wave of coverage.
Federal officials say they have been working to make the site better and plan further improvements soon. Also, administrators say they welcome feedback and try to fix typos or other errors quickly.
"We launched consumer-friendly Spanish online enrollment tools on CuidadoDeSalud.gov in December which represents one more way for Latinos to enroll in Marketplace plans," said Health and Human Services Department spokesman Richard Olague in an email to The Associated Press. "Since the soft-launch, we continue to work closely with key stakeholders to get feedback in order to improve the experience for those consumers that use the website."
Still, efforts to enroll Spanish-speakers have fallen short in several states with large Hispanic populations, and critics say the translated version of HealthCare.gov could have helped boost those numbers.
One woman spent a week trying to sign up:
"In my opinion, the website doesn't work," said Grettl Diaz, a 37-year-old Miami gas station cashier who is originally from Cuba.
Diaz said she tried to sign up at home using CuidadoDeSalud.gov. After she couldn't get the website to accept a scanned document, she called the government's Spanish hotline seeking help. However, she was repeatedly told to call back because the site was down. She got through days later and waited over an hour for an operator before she was ultimately disconnected.
"I'm very frustrated," she said through a translator this month. "I've spent at least one week on the phone, and I couldn't get it done."
Diaz, who speaks very little English, finally went to a counselor for help and is now waiting for an email from health officials saying she can proceed with her application.
No one is surprised at the snafus, but some aspects of the site are so ridiculous it boggles the mind. The translations are horrible because they are using a computer program to generate text:
As for the language, Plaza, the New Mexico professor, said a recent examination by her research students concluded that the translations were done "by a computer-generated process" and came across as awkward.
"There are problems with the verbs and word order that make sentences hard to understand," said Plaza, who helped develop an audio version to help residents in New Mexico sign up.
An obvious shortcut where they didn't care if the text was readable, only that they could claim it was in Spanish.
You wonder what "fix" President Obama will come up with for such an important part of his coalition.