It’s important for Medicare plan providers and healthcare organizations to make sure they’re able to communicate effectively with their patients — and that means speaking to them in their language. 

Medicare Advantage sponsors are required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to translate documents into languages spoken by at least 5% of the members in a plan’s service area. In this way, the CMS requires providers to be mindful of the country’s linguistic diversity.

If your organization is looking to translate documents into a new language, or simply want to refresh old translations, you’ll want to work with a translation agency that specializes in Medicare services. A Medicare translation agency will help you identify the documents that need translation and work with you to make sure you’re up to par with the CMS’ requirements.

But with all the language service providers out there, how can you determine which one is best for you and your organization’s needs? At Avantpage, we’ve identified three main factors to consider when you’re evaluating a Medicare translation agency to work with:

  • Turnaround time
  • Quality
  • Cost

These factors all come together to influence one another — for example, shorter turnaround time on a project might require you to sacrifice cost or quality, depending on the agency you work with and its approach. Likewise, lower cost might mean lower quality, and so on.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deeper dive into the factors you need to consider when selecting a translation agency to work on important Medicare documents, to give you a better sense of what to look for when you’re looking for a language service provider.

The Relationship Between Turnaround Time, Quality, and Cost

Turnaround time, quality, and cost are deeply intertwined factors that you need to consider when selecting an agency, as they can significantly impact the outcome of your translation projects.

For instance, if your priority is quick turnaround time, your agency will need to allocate resources in different areas that will more than likely require a bit of a trade-off between quality and cost. The agency will either need to hire additional professionals or leverage advanced technologies to ensure that the translation can be delivered on time. More human professionals will keep the quality high, but it will also drive the cost up; on the flip-side, technology will keep costs low, but will likely lower the overall quality of your translation.

On the other hand, prioritizing quality entails implementing additional processes or involving more linguists in the translation process. This can lead to higher costs and potentially longer turnaround times.

If minimizing cost is your primary concern, compromises can be made on the number of linguists involved, simplifying processes, or leveraging cost-effective technologies. However, this often comes at the expense of quality and/or turnaround time. It’s important to recognize that prioritizing low cost in healthcare, particularly in Medicare translation, may not always align with delivering high-quality and timely services necessary for equitable care.

What’s the Order of Importance?

Because these factors are so deeply connected, it’s important to figure out which ones you want to prioritize — each organization is likely to have different priorities, depending on the kinds of translation projects they need completed.

For instance, Medicare or state-managed health plans like Medi-Cal plans tend to place a premium on both turnaround time and quality, in order to comply with health equity regulations. These regulations often mandate timely delivery of culturally and linguistically appropriate services to effectively address health equity gaps. For example, Medi-Cal Notice of Action letters must not only meet stringent quality standards but also have to adhere to tight deadlines, requiring translations within as little as 4 hours to ensure timely delivery to the patient.

Similarly, healthcare organizations that conduct health education workshops may prioritize quality over the other three factors to ensure accurate dissemination of information. While cost considerations are also important, maintaining the integrity of the content and ensuring it resonates with diverse audiences may take precedence. In such cases, turnaround time may be less critical, as events are typically planned well in advance, allowing for adequate preparation time.

Ultimately, the order of importance for organizations when selecting a Medicare translation agency may vary based on their specific objectives, regulatory requirements, and the nature of the content being translated.

Additional Factors to Consider

Think of these factors as sort of the “Big Three” to consider when determining the right Medicare translation agency for your organization. They’re the main things you’ll want to consider, but they aren’t necessarily the only things to consider — here are just a few additional factors and sub-factors that could play a role in deciding which agency is the best fit:

  • Whether or not an agency is a small business or diverse vendor (i.e., is the business family-run, minority-owned, woman-owned, etc.?)
  • An agency’s knowledge and involvement in your local community
  • PHI-HIPAA compliance
  • The technological capabilities and products that the agency uses
  • Past projects and clients that the agency has worked with
  • Certain awards or certifications that the agency has earned


As you look for a Medicare translation agency to help your organization meet its language access goals, there are several factors to consider. Three major ones — turnaround time, quality, and cost — stand out the most. Here are some things to consider as you seek out a language service provider to work with:

  • Turnaround time, quality, and cost are deeply connected — you may have to sacrifice one for the others. For example, short turnaround times could lower the quality of a final product or increase the cost.
  • Different organizations are likely to prioritize these factors differently — consider the kinds of projects you need to work on and determine which factors are most important to you.
  • There are other additional factors and sub-factors to consider as well, such as a vendor’s diversity or work history.

At Avantpage, we’ve worked with extensively with Medicare providers and healthcare organizations to meet their healthcare needs. If you’re looking for a top-notch Medicare translation agency, consider reaching out to us today at [email protected] or (530) 750-2040.