Health Exchange Foreign Language Fact Sheets Get Poor Marks

By Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen

Published: 31 July 2013


Article Excerpt: “Call it a case of ‘lost in translation.’ Washington and Oregon’s new health insurance exchanges are getting poor marks for their efforts to communicate with foreign language audiences.

On the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website you can find fact sheets in eight foreign languages – from Cambodian to Somali. These one and two page documents are supposed to help uninsured families navigate the new world of the Affordable Care Act. But after the translations went live on the website, the feedback was not great.”

Link to the full story here.

InterpretAmerica’s take: Healthcare reform goes "live" in October, and debate is raging as to whether this will ultimately be positive or negative for the nation. Either way, the new healthcare exchanges being built will interact with millions of newly-covered limited English-speaking patients online, over the phone, and through written materials. Title VI, the legislation that governs language access for all federal funds recipients in the United States, will also apply to these exchanges. That is why it is both heartening and disappointing to read this article. Heartening because at least in Oregon and Washington attempts are being made now to solve language access barriers. Disappointing that the initial materials produced seemed to lack a consistent quality control process. This article represents the veritable tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways healthcare reform and the changing healthcare environment will be stretching translation and interpreting to the limit to overcome linguistic barriers to healthcare.

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InterpretAmerica, LLC was established in 2009 to provide a national and international forum for the interpreting profession.

Katharine Allen and Barry S. Olsen


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