Sebelius on Spanish HealthCare.gov site: 'Terminology in insurance is pretty arcane, even in English'

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ORLANDO, Fla. - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was full of excuses Monday when Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez asked her about mistranslations on the HealthCare.gov website.

Sebelius told Channel 9 a team of people are looking through the website to make sure the Spanish version is accurate, but Alvarez looked through it and found there's a lot of work left to do.

"My understanding, it's a much better user experience now," Sebelius said.

But Mike Nieves, the head of a local marketing firm that specializes in cutting through cultural barriers, said the government failed to do just that.

"Honestly, I was dumbfounded," Nieves said.

For "monthly payment," the website uses the word "prima," but to Nieves, it means "female cousin."

Alvarez and Nieves looked through the Spanish version of HealthCare.gov and found sloppy translations are still to be found.

In one instance, the site reads, "Costo de bolsillo." 

"They're trying to say, 'Out of pocket cost,' but they're actually saying, 'Cost of my pocket,'" said Alvarez.

"Exactly. It doesn't make sense, does it?" said Nieves.

On Monday, Sebelius told Channel 9 the translations weren't done by a computer but by a team of experts.

"Terminology in insurance is pretty arcane, even in English and... they probably didn't have the smoothest transition into Spanish," Sebelius said.

Nieves said since the Spanish language changes from country to country, he agrees translating hundreds of pages on insurance can be difficult but he said there's no excuse for it from the United States government.

"At the end of the day, our goal is to communicate," Nieves said. "There's no shortcuts. You have to understand your audience."

In the meantime, Sebelius said not enough of central Floridians are signed up for health care, and she's blaming state lawmakers.

A YouTube video featuring Orlando resident Ali Kurnaz is part of the latest push to get uninsured Floridians to sign up for affordable health care.

"I'm glad I can share my story about the Affordable Care Act," Kurnaz said at a news conference Monday. "I've benefitted a lot from it. My whole family has."

But despite the outcome for Kurnaz, Sebelius said there's a lot of work to do in Florida, where 3.5 million people are still uninsured. 

Channel 9 asked her to compare our state to others that, unlike Florida, created their own insurance exchanges.

"The most important part of what they did was a lot of outreach and education, and what we saw in Florida was the opposite," Sebelius said.

Sebelius said Florida's Legislature has worked against the so-called Obamacare and, in her opinion, consumers.

She joined Mayor Buddy Dyer to announce that various locations around Orlando will have trained personnel on hand between now and March 31, when the enrollment period ends, ready to walk people through the enrollment process.

"The marketplaces are open for business and running very smoothly," Sebelius said.