Medicare Telehealth Services and Language Access: What You Need to Know

Medicare Telehealth Services and Language Access | Telelanguage

Medicare Telehealth Services and Language Services | TelelanguageTelehealth services and improved access to virtual care have continued to expand their reach in the United States over the past several years. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for telehealth, including Medicare Telehealth Services, and telehealth usage has been expected to rise by 64.3% in 2020. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has added 144 Medicare telehealth services for the duration of the PHE. Between mid-March and mid-October 2020, more than 24.5 million out of 63 million beneficiaries and enrollees have received Medicare telemedicine services.

Language access has always played an important role in health care, and it continues to be critically important in providing safe and culturally competent telehealth services during (and beyond) the COVID-19 PHE. Currently, 8% of Medicare beneficiaries are limited-English proficient (LEP) and 15% of Medicare beneficiaries are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Today, we’ll look at CMS’s expansion of Medicare Telehealth Services, reimbursement for telehealth services under Medicare, and why language access must be a part of every provider’s telehealth toolkit. 


Expansion of Medicare Telehealth Services

Beginning March 6, 2020, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive important health care services without having to travel to a healthcare facility under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. Healthcare providers such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, have been able to offer telehealth to Medicare beneficiaries, and beneficiaries are able to receive telehealth services in any healthcare facility including a physician’s office, hospital, nursing home or rural health clinic, as well as from their homes.

On December 1, 2020, CMS issued a final rule that includes updates on policy changes for Medicare payments under the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS). The final rule takes steps to further implement the recent Executive Order to expand Medicare Telehealth Services by adding more than 60 services to the Medicare telehealth list to be covered beyond the end of the Public Health Emergency, and notes the possibility of adding more services in the future.


Reimbursement for Medicare Telehealth Services

MEDICARE TELEHEALTH VISITS:  Medicare patients may use telecommunication technology for office, hospital visits, and other healthcare services that would typically occur in-person.

VIRTUAL CHECK-INS: Virtual Check-Ins are short patient-initiated communications with a healthcare practitioner. Established Medicare patients may have a brief communication service in their home with practitioners using communication technologies for discussions over the telephone or exchange of information through video or image.

E-VISITS: E-Visits are non-face-to-face patient-initiated communications through an online patient portal.


Medicare Telehealth Services and Access to Virtual Care

For the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payment for Medicare telehealth services at the same rate as regular, in-person visits for Medicare beneficiaries in all areas of the country in all settings. Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other medicare telehealth services including a patient’s residence, and a range of providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, may offer their patients telehealth services. The expansion of Medicare’s telehealth benefits under the 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, along with changes made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve access to virtual care, provide flexibility to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have improved access to virtual care.


Telehealth and Language Access: Protecting the Rights of LEP Patients

The United States is culturally and linguistically diverse. The United States Census Bureau, as of 2015, reported that more than 350 languages are spoken in U.S. homes. Non-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. These laws and regulations remain in place during this time for programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, which means qualified interpreters and translated materials must be provided for limited English proficient and Deaf or Hard of Hearing patients.


Non-English Languages Most Commonly Spoken by LEP Medicare Beneficiaries:

Over 61.6 million individuals, both foreign and U.S. born, speak a language other than English at home. Of the 8% of LEP Medicare Beneficiaries, 52% speak Spanish at home.


Image Source: CMS, Understanding Communication and Language Needs of Medicare Beneficiaries, 2017.

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)


How Telelanguage Can Help

When language barriers arise in health care settings, you need a language services provider that can respond quickly. Telelanguage provides healthcare organizations and telehealth providers with medical interpretation and translation services that can easily integrate certified medical interpreters into any telehealth session. Language services are available 24/7, 365 days a year, and cover more than 300 spoken languages and American Sign Language.


Telehealth Language Access and Video Remote Interpreting 

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For healthcare providers using video-conferencing and telemedicine platforms for patient meetings, Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) provides on-demand access to interpreters that can be easily integrated into a telehealth system. VRI provides the highest level of accuracy in telehealth interpretation with the added visual support of the interpreter, enabling healthcare providers to communicate with limited English proficient, Deaf, and Hard-of-Hearing patients.

With easy access from any smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC, a live medical interpreter can be added to your appointment in seconds. Press one button and choose your language.

  • Fast connections to medically certified interpreters
  • Low per-minute rate. No minimums.
  • No special hardware needed.
  • Remote interpreting solutions for spoken languages and American Sign Language.
  • Easy access from any iOS/Android device (smartphone/tablet), laptop, or PC.
  • Available 24/7, 365 days a year.


Telehealth Language Access and Over the Phone Interpreting

Telephonic interpretation allows healthcare professionals to connect with patients on-demand, in over 300 languages. Telelanguage’s filter-based qualification interpreter connect feature allows providers to connect with a certified medical interpreter best qualified for the situation – in as little as 3-4 seconds.

  • Low per-minute rate
  • Fastest connection times in the industry
  • Multiple location and real-time transferring
  • Available 24/7, 365 days a year

Make sure that non-English speaking patients are included in your telehealth efforts for the COVID-19 telehealth coverage expansion. During these challenging times, health care providers have seen an increased need for remote language services. Telelanguage has added additional staff to take on the increased volume of calls. Many facilities – particularly healthcare – are forced to send staff interpreters home, requiring that they move towards a telephonic and video interpretation solution. Telelanguage’s remote implementation procedures allow activation of new accounts (or new departments within existing accounts) within minutes over the phone or via an online chat. Interpretation can begin immediately upon account activation.


Translation Services

Translation services improve communication through the written translation of vital documents into the patient’s preferred language. Failure to translate vital documents, such as notices of language assistance, discharge instructions, and complaint forms can violate nondiscrimination laws like Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

All Translators with whom Telelanguage contracts have at least 2 years experience in Written Translation and are subject-matter experts. We assign translation projects to specific translators based on their experience in the subject matter. We have an extensive database of translators that allows us to provide translation services in any language.

Telelanguage’s Translators go through specialized training in order to meet the unique set of skills, knowledge, and experience to ensure proficiency in medical content, formatting, and as with any of our services, with a timely response. Support is available 24/7, 365 days a year so you never have to worry.

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Health Care Interpretation Services to Fit Your Needs

When language barriers arise in health care settings, you need a language services provider that can respond quickly to the unique needs of your organization. Telelanguage Medical Interpretation and Translation Services provide the solutions you need to improve language access at every step of the patient journey. Certified Medical interpreters are available 24/7/365 days a year.

  • Telephonic Interpretation
  • Video Remote Interpretation
  • On-Site Interpretation
  • Document Translation of vital forms, and notifications


Confidentiality and Compliance

Telelanguage medical interpreters are superior-trained, experienced, and certified. This process includes an in-depth understanding of medical terminology and procedure to provide the highest quality language interpretation for your patients – every time!

Confidentiality and security of patient information are critical to language access for medical facilities. Telelanguage provides 100% HIPAA compliant services, providing meaningful language access and compliance to meet the requirements of:

  • Affordable Care Act, Section 1557 (ACA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA)
  • Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • The Joint Commission


Why Health Care Providers are Switching to Telelanguage

  • Medically trained and certified interpreters
  • HIPAA Compliant Services
  • Lower Cost
  • Free Service Trial Programs
  • Best-in-Industry Call Volume Discount Plans
  • Proprietary Technology
  • Quick interpreter connect to over 300 languages


Telelanguage medical interpretation and translation services provide necessary language access solutions for telehealth providers at every step of a patient’s journey. Since 1991, Telelanguage has helped thousands of healthcare organizations to improve language access programs through high-quality language interpretation and translation services. Currently, more than 70% of our clients are health care entities.

In light of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Telelanguage is offering all new contracts our language interpretation and translation services with no contract required.

You will pay ONLY for the minutes you use, and there are no minimum requirements. Call 1-888-983-5352, or email [email protected] to begin services today!


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Certified medical interpreters ready to speak in 300+ languages!

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