Role of Healthcare Translation Services in Eliminating Healthcare Disparities

What role can healthcare translation services play in eliminating healthcare disparities for low income and under/uninsured individuals/families?

It is no exaggeration that almost everyone wants to eliminate healthcare disparities for the low income and under/uninsured. This topic has been addressed from a variety of viewpoints by many organizations across the nation in the last few decades. 

A quick google search will show a plethora  of reasons for healthcare disparities. For the purposes of this blog, this particular topic will be addressed from the perspective of five key questions: 

  1. Who are uninsured people and why are they uninsured?
  2. Is there sufficient assistance for them, including language assistance?
  3. What are federal, state and local governments doing to help?
  4. Is healthcare translation services beneficial for limited English proficiency (LEP) consumers?
  5. Did the coronavirus pandemic exasperate the healthcare disparity problem?

One thing is for sure: the coronavirus pandemic affected everyone in nearly the same way. It didn’t matter if you were uninsured, underinsured, or over insured. This type of pandemic happens once every 100 years. For the purposes of this blog, we will not dive too much into discussing it. 

In this blog, EPIC Translations will look into the  role that healthcare translation services can play in eliminating healthcare disparities. 

Over the years, the federal government has implemented  different measures to tackle healthcare disparities from different perspectives. As we know, the federal government spends a lot of money on many different  causes , such as social security, healthcare (also Medicare/Medicaid), national defense, highway maintenance, building construction, research, and education. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, 4 of the largest 6 categories of expenditures have to do with healthcare and related services. This tells us that the federal government is not holding back when it comes to spending on its people.

This begs the question: If this is the case, why are there still healthcare disparities ? The answers to this question could very well be plenty, including personnel and operations related issues. For sure, there is no singular answer.  

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Uninsured Population

According to Kaiser Family Foundation, “from 2017 to 2019, the number of nonelderly uninsured individuals dropped by nearly 1.5 million from 28.9 million in 2019 to 27.5 million in 2021. And the uninsured rate decreased from 10.9% in 2019 to 10.2% in 2021.”

The majority of uninsured people come from low-income families with at least one wage earner. Their research also found that adults are more likely to be uninsured than children, which reflects the less widespread availability of public insurance in some states. Although Asians have the lowest uninsured rate, persons of color are often more likely than White people to be without insurance.

Hispanics experienced the greatest drop in their uninsured rate in 2021, which fell from 20.0% to 19.0%. Asians saw a decline in their uninsured rate from 7.2% to 6.4%, Whites from 7.8% to 7.2%, and Blacks from 11.4% to 10.9%.

For American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) people, the uninsured rates in 2021 did not differ considerably from those in 2019. 

In 2021, 64% of uninsured adults claimed that their lack of coverage was due to the high cost of insurance. Many people lack access to insurance through their jobs, and some people, particularly low-income adults living in areas where Medicaid was not expanded, are still ineligible for financial support for insurance. Immigrants without documentation are also not eligible for Medicaid or Marketplace insurance.

A lesser increase in non-group coverage, which includes coverage in the Marketplaces, and an increase in Medicaid coverage were primarily responsible for the decline in the number of people without health insurance.

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Language Barriers

Research done by Kaiser Family Foundation shows that opportunities to increase coverage and reduce disparities can be availed if more states embraced Medicaid expansion and enrollment of eligible individuals in Medicaid or Marketplace coverage. 

It should also be noted that individuals who have limited English proficiency and need healthcare translation services are more likely to have gaps in their health insurance coverage and poor health outcomes.

This is mostly due to difficulty in their understanding and sharing of medical information. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of Medicaid recipients are people with limited English proficiency (LEP), and they are more likely than English-proficient enrollees to encounter administrative obstacles when completing Medicaid renewal procedures. As a result, even though they are still eligible for coverage, LEP individuals may end up losing it.

If you’re wondering what the  primary spoken language of LEPs is then you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of top spoken languages by LEPs in Medicaid households:

  1. Spanish
  2. Arabic
  3. Haitian
  4. Tagalog
  5. Korean
  6. Portuguese
  7. Russian
  8. French

While we  may be aware that LEPs face certain hurdles, it might be helpful to note that the primary hurdle they face is difficult enrollment and renewal procedures. If this one hurdle can be addressed then LEPs might not lose their Medicaid benefits!

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Strategies to Effectively Communicate with LEPs

It is no secret that some states are catering to LEPs better than others.

California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are national heroes in this regard. 

Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee definitely have room to improve in providing healthcare translation assistance to their LEP citizens.

What can state, county, and local governments do to effectively communicate with LEPs so they don’t lose healthcare coverage? According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), below is a list of some of the strategies that can be used to effectively communicate with LEPs:

  1. Create or review their language access plans to give information and guidance on how they can obtain free language services in written and spoken translation and interpretation;
  2. Hire qualified translators to translate notifications, forms, and other communications into other languages while also checking them for cultural sensitivity;
  3. Create, review and improve accessibility to and availability of qualified telephonic interpreters as well as in-person interpreters who speak languages that are frequently used;
  4. Refresh websites with taglines in non-English languages to inform LEP users on how to get free language services.

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EPIC Translations is a family-owned language services company established in 2005.

We focus on nurturing long-term successful relationships with our clients in order to ensure engaging multilingual communications with historically underrepresented and low income populations, as well as those impacted by health disparities. 

Our translators & interpreters have more than 1000 years of cumulative experience in various industries including social services, government, healthcare, non-profit, manufacturing, automotive, engineering, IT, legal, finance, life sciences, chemicals, and education.

Our availability, agility, responsiveness, and capacity to meet clients’ requirements, according to schedule and budget, are some of the reasons why nearly 100% of our clients come back to us time and again. We operate as an extension of the client’s team and therefore place a premium on being available and responsive to the client’s needs.

Ready to dive in? Let us know how we can help.

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