Jay Tran, PharmD
The U.S. healthcare system is notorious for being difficult to navigate – even if English is someone’s first language. This difficulty is exponentially increased for those whose primary language is not English. However, they still need access to quality medical care and channels to ask questions when they arise.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau data American Community Survey (ACS), ~40% of the population 65 and older speak a language other than English in the home or may require other language-related assistance.
Collectively, there’s an unfortunately large swath of the population that may not be able to effectively understand or access their benefits. Because of that, Medicare is attempting to address this problem.
New CMS Language Translation Requirements for 2024
One of the solutions Medicare has proposed is providing translation services. This can take the form of documents being translated into the individual’s first language or having access to an interpreter who speaks that language.
To strengthen the translation requirements, the following changes have been proposed:
- Automatic Language Support: In areas where at least 5% of the local population speaks a language other than English as their primary language (Spanish, for example), Medicare providers – including MA (Medicare Advantage) organizations, cost plans, and Part D sponsors – must automatically offer their materials in that language.
- Requesting Language Support on a Standing Basis: Once an enrollee asks for material in a different language or needs those materials in a special format because of a disability, the plan providers must give it to that enrollee in that format or language moving forward.
- Special Needs Plans: As mentioned, special needs individuals can also request to have materials provided in a special format due to a disability, and the plan providers must provide the materials in that format.
- Plans with Both Medicare and Medicaid: For plans with dual eligible members - individuals that get benefits from both Medicare and Medicaid - Medicare providers should provide materials in languages based on both the Medicare and Medicaid rules for translation.
How Capital Rx is Helping Clients Meet CMS Guidelines for Translation Services
Part of what makes Capital Rx’s JUDI® such an important healthcare tool is the ability to incorporate the latest regulatory requirements quickly, easily, and accurately. For this particular translation requirement, for example, all that is required is for the new rules to be input into the system – something that only takes a few keystrokes and minutes in a modern enterprise health platform.
From then on, JUDI will automatically follow the new CMS translation requirements by displaying the preferred language in an accessible and visible location on the member's profile. This way, users such as customer care team members can provide a better, compliant experience to members in need of translation services. Additionally, preferred language and format data can be sent downstream to any other processes. From January 1, 2024, anyone needing translated materials or special formats will receive them without worrying about lag time.
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