Translation to Play an Important Role in Reaching LEP (limited English proficiency) Audiences

According to a recent article in the New York Times*, the new state-run healthcare exchanges still have a long way to go before the October 1, 2013 deadline.

The health exchanges are the cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, and it is estimated that they will make health insurance available to up to 30 million people who are not currently covered. However, studies have shown that as many as three quarters of those eligible for this new coverage are completely unaware of their options. With the deadline for open enrollment looming, health care advocates, community organizers and consumer health care organizations are scrambling to get the word out.

Compounding the problem: Among the people expected to sign up for coverage, one in four speak a language other than English at home, and three out of four have a high school diploma or less. In California, the state-run health exchange, Covered California, must reach five million people who communicate in 13 different languages and reside across an area encompassing 163,000 square miles.

This underscores the importance of communicating not only in appropriate languages, but at appropriate reading levels as well. Translation services will play an essential role in removing language barriers and reaching out to these newest health care consumers.

With political parties still at odds over the implementation of the new health care law, consumer confidence has been further eroded regarding health care reform.  Despite these hurdles, healthcare organizations and insurers are moving ahead to identify and reach out to the uninsured in anticipation of enrollment.

Community outreach and education is necessary at every level to make uninsured consumers aware of their new healthcare options and encourage them to enroll. Translation will play a pivotal role in ensuring effective communication in the wide variety of languages necessary to reach out to these new health care consumers.

* “Racing to Spread Word About New Health Plans”, Robert Pear, April 23, 2013