Medicare and Language Access: Overcoming Language Barriers During Medicare Open Enrollment

Medicare and Language Access: Overcoming Language Barriers

Medicare Beneficiaries and Limited English Proficiency. Medicare and Language Access – Open Enrollment for Medicare begins October 15th, 2018 and ends on December 7, 2018.  Why are Medicare and language access so important during this period? 8% of the 57 million U.S. residents enrolled in Medicare are limited English proficient.  Navigating healthcare can be confusing for anyone, but for Limited-English proficient populations, communication barriers make it even more difficult to understand benefits, coverage, and care.  Barriers to communication are associated with decreased quality of care and poor clinical outcomes, longer hospital stays, and higher rates of hospital readmissions. As the United States becomes more culturally and linguistically diverse, more people prefer to communicate about medical situations and healthcare open enrollment in their native language.

Limited English Proficiency refers to people (over the age 5) who speak English “Less than very well.” Language access requirements make it imperative to provide qualified interpreters and translated materials for LEP individuals.

Over 61.6 million individuals, both foreign and U.S. born, speak a language other than English at home and providing excellent language services can improve overall communication and satisfaction during 2019 Medicare Open Enrollment, and beyond.

Check out the Medicare and language access key facts, and the infographic below to learn more about the language support needs of LEP Medicare beneficiaries in the United States.

Medicare and Language Access Needs: Key Facts

  • 52% of Limited English Proficient Medicare beneficiaries speak Spanish
  • 8% of Medicare beneficiaries are Limited English Proficient. (ACS, 2014)
  • There are about 4 million LEP Medicare beneficiaries. (ACS, 2014)
  • 80% of LEP Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries reside in the East Coast, West Coast, and Southwest


Non-English languages most commonly spoken by LEP Medicare beneficiaries:

1. Spanish, 52%

2. Chinese, 5%

3. Vietnamese, 4%

4. Tagalog, 4%

5. Korean, 4%

6. Russian, 3%

7. Italian, 3%

8. Cantonese, 2%

9. French Creole 2%

10. Other Languages, 2%

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)


States with the highest prevalence of Medicare beneficiaries who are limited English proficient:

1. California

2. Hawaii

3. New York

4. Texas

5. New Jersey

6. Florida

7. Massachusetts

8. New Mexico

9. Rhode Island

10. Illinois

11. Nevada

12. Connecticut

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)


Medicare and Language Access: Limited English Proficiency and Medicare Beneficiaries in the United States



How Can Insurers Support Limited English Speaking Enrollees? Telelanguage Can Help!


Video Remote Interpreting

Video Remote Interpreting is an on-demand interpretation solution that bridges the gap between over-the-phone interpreting and on-site interpreting. It can also be extremely cost-effective in healthcare settings because no minimum hours or mileage reimbursement are needed to gain access to the interpreter (as might occur with an in-person appointment).

Using leading-edge technology, Video Remote Interpreting can be a useful on-demand solution for insurers who require a fast response and may need extra visual communication with an interpreter.


On-site Interpretation

On-site interpretation can be the right solution to support LEP patient care for lengthy appointments or interviews planned in advance. When a conversation will be complex or time-consuming, in-person interpretation will help reduce enrollee stress and ensure meaningful communication. A few other instances where on-site interpreters are beneficial may include when many appointments are scheduled close together, and when a client prefers to have an interpreter physically present.

Understanding healthcare plans can cause stress for anyone, but when there is a language barrier, having an interpreter present can greatly reduce the stress for the LEP enrollee. When a situation arises where you need an on-site interpreter fast, Telelanguage can have a certified medical interpreter at a location in as little as 30 minutes.


Telephonic Interpretation

Over-the-Phone Interpretation is an on-demand, remote interpreting service that offers a fast response when urgent or unexpected language barriers comes up.

Available at a low per-minute rate, Telephonic Interpreting allows professionals to connect to an interpreter in seconds, regardless of the language needed. Telelanguage’s proprietary technology ensures that there are no outages and allows professionals to connect to certified interpreters best qualified for the situation in over 300 languages.

Telelanguage provides the fastest connect times in the industry (average time is 7 seconds).


Translation Services

Healthcare plans and medical plans can be confusing for a patient, but when the patient does not speak English documents should be provided in the language preferred by the patient. Telelanguage has the capacity to translate documents from English to over 100 target languages and vice versa.


Support healthcare open enrollment applicants with the fastest connect times in the industry, in over 300 languages.

healthcare open enrollment and language accessAcross the country, and the world, insurance providers often deal with clients at some of their most stressful, and critical times. As a language service provider with over 27 years of experience, Telelanguage understands the keys to communicating with any demographic, culture or language – especially in these demanding scenarios. Telelanguage has been a trusted name in healthcare language services and insurance language services since 1991. Contact us for more information on how to support Medicare enrollees during the open-enrollment period.

Learn More about the benefits of language services for your organization in our free white paper – Connecting Humanity through Technology: The Importance of Offering Language Services as an Organization. [Download the Free White Paper]


Certified interpreters ready to speak in over 300 languages!

Call Telelanguage today at 888-983-5352

Expert interpretations for medical appointments are available telephonically, face to face, or via video remote!