Tag Archive for healthcare reform

A Month that Calls for Celebration

It would be an understatement to say that most of you are a just a little preoccupied with the pending Health Insurance Exchanges that will be here in mere days. With open enrollment and the ACA weighing heavily on everyone’s minds, I thought I’d change gears and write about something uplifting that everyone can celebrate, which is National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Starting in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson, National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, and celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of those with origins from Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

In a richly diverse nation full of the world’s many wonderful cultures and backgrounds, people of Hispanic origin still comprise the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority. Those of you that handle language access for your healthcare organization may find it no surprise that Spanish is also the second most common language in the country, and is spoken by over 30% of the population.

From the NFL to the nation’s capital, and many communities and events in between, it’s easy to find a way to join in a celebración of this historical month.

For tips on how to make the most of your marketing efforts to your Hispanic audiences check out these resources from VIA:


Bridging the Language Gap: A Key Piece to the New Healthcare Marketplace

As I previously mentioned, the upcoming open enrollment season will bring heaps of newly-eligible health consumers, many of whom do not speak English as their native tongue. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that as many as one in four new consumers who will apply for health coverage in the new exchange will speak a language other than English in their home. Removing language barriers for LEP populations is a must for states and health insurance providers to truly ensure equal access to information and healthcare services.

With already so much to prepare for by October’s open enrollment date, those involved with the new health exchange may benefit from some quick tips and proven practices on how to best address their new LEP consumers. And fortunately, Families USA and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) have developed a “Language Access Checklist for Marketplace Implementation”. This checklist provides a full set of recommendations on how to ensure LEP consumers can successfully enroll in, use and retain coverage. And for even more best practices on managing your multilingual healthcare communications as well as your budget, get your copy of our complimentary guide: Beyond Translation: Best Practices for Healthcare here.


‘Tis the Season to Start Planning for Open Enrollment

As a result of the Affordable Care Act’s impact on the 2014 landscape, health plans are preparing their mandated documents such as the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) earlier than usual. The ANOC/EOC is a critical component of your plan as it provides details about coverage, costs and more. This may sound simple enough, but this year insurance plans need to take into account more than just earlier timelines. As a result of the recent reform, 12 million new customers and 11 million small businesses will flood the insurance market in January. Many of these new consumers will come from households that are not only more culturally and linguistically diverse, but that have never had health insurance before.

Navigating the new health exchanges and healthcare system is challenging enough for seasoned professionals, let alone for someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language. And with October and the open enrollment period right around the corner, health plans will soon need to find new strategies to effectively communicate with their new and diverse customers. Bridging the language gap is essential to ensuring diverse communities enjoy equal access to healthcare, because true understanding happens when people can internalize the material in their native language. So whether it’s ANOC/EOC’s, SBC’s, or any of the other numerous communications your plan will soon be sending out, the key is to ensure that you are truly reaching your market in a meaningful, effective way.

Learn more about VIA’s ANOC/EOC translations and how your plan can save up to 20%.


ACA Opens the Door to Newly Eligible Populations

It seems like it was just yesterday when we were in the midst of a national election and speculating if the Affordable Care Act was going to move forward as planned.   Fast forward just three months to February and the Final Rule for Essential Health Benefits was issued.  Expanded access through Medicaid expansion and Insurer Markets is a reality and open enrollment is approaching fast.

This expanded access will reach populations that haven’t previously had coverage, and the learning curve will be huge.   I’ve lived in the healthcare system my entire career and I still find the flow charts explaining access to be a bit of a spaghetti diagram.  And that’s just the start—once people determine their eligibility, they will need to make decisions about health plans, navigate enrollment forms, select providers, etc.   This is an excellent opportunity not only to provide care, but also to provide education to new members on wellness, prevention and disease management.  As the immigrant population will comprise a significant percentage of the newly eligible, providing these materials to consumers with limited English proficiency will be critical to improving the experience, outcomes and ultimately population health.

Health literacy is a big concern in our healthcare system affecting both escalating costs and outcomes.  It is particularly prevalent among the elderly, and members of minority or ethnic groups who already face language and cultural barriers.  A few things to keep in mind when creating and translating materials are:  target 6th-8th grade literacy levels, write clearly in active voice, use short sentences, use clear headings, incorporate cultural nuances for LEP populations, and use graphics to help explain concepts. We also find that Q&A formats work well.

I firmly believe it’s up to all of us to simplify the increasing complexity of the health care system!


Want to learn more about health literacy and how to prepare your health plan for the changing healthcare marketplace? Download and watch our recent webinar, 2012 Health Plan Preparedness.


Is Your Plan Ready for the Changing Face of Healthcare?

Not only are health plans facing reform, but as our population continues to diversify, language and cultural barriers continue to complicate matters. Health plans across the nation are preparing for what’s in store for the next two years. In order to succeed in this evolving environment, they need to reassess current strategies and find ways to turn challenges into new opportunities. The healthcare industry must redesign its business models to better capture, serve, and keep a growing class of empowered customers. Healthcare reform has brought more questions than answers, and there’s still much we don’t know. One thing that can certainly be said, however, is that the health plans of tomorrow will not be the same as today. Therefore it is vital they keep members informed, educated and engaged.

Join VIA on February 27 for our next healthcare translation webinar on 2013 Health Plan Preparedness. This complimentary event will highlight features of the health care law that pertain to language access, and will better equip health plans to serve their diverse members.

Attendees will also learn:

  • Trends around legislation, immigration and language populations
  • Prioritizing your budget for the greatest impact
  • Tips for managing content – from healthcare literacy, translation to cultural sensitivity
  • Using print, video and mobile to improve education and engagement

Time’s running out, so reserve your seat now and stay ahead of the curve!


U.S. government makes pledge to address health needs of minority groups

If you’re a member of a minority group in the U.S., chances are good that your healthcare, and consequently your health, are worse than that of the rest of the population. This includes everything from higher infant mortality rates to a greater likelihood of diabetes, heart disease and asthma to a shorter life expectancy.

In response, the U.S. government recently announced a first-of-its-kind plan focused on righting the imbalance and bringing parity to healthcare and healthcare access. It addresses the role to be played by doctors, federal health officials, and communities at large, and includes a wide spectrum of health-related objectives, including the following:

  • Increase by 10 percent the number of poor children who receive preventive dental care.
  • Hire local community health workers to help diabetics.
  • Enlist “promotoras,” the name given to community health workers who work with Spanish speakers.
  • Develop incentives to improve care for minority groups.
  • Conduct new studies regarding which treatments work best for minority groups.
  • Create a national online database of certified interpreters that doctors or hospitals can use for non-English-speaking patients.
  • Create state grants to measure and improve care for asthma.

The report also asserts that the funds to finance the multifaceted program would come from existing sources and so is not contingent upon current budget wrangling, which is good.

A promising declaration of purpose, the plan could surely have a beneficial impact in these needy communities. We look forward to seeing what happens from here.

Till next time,

Healthcare reform set to increase demand for medical translation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us we can expect the healthcare industry to grow over the next decade. How much? Forecasts are that about one in four jobs created in the U.S. through 2018 will be in healthcare.

The engines behind such growth are fairly easy to identify: America’s aging population and the $940 billion Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed last March. What some may neglect to appreciate is what this means for medical translation.

Industry analysts suggest these developments could lead to an increase in the insurance rolls of approximately 44 million people. Most striking for medical translators is that half of those will be coming from communities in which English is not the primary language.

Not surprisingly, a great many of these limited English proficient (LEP) Americans are applauding the reform and looking forward to the welcome coverage. For example, a recent New America Media poll revealed that more than 65 percent of Korean-Americans, the nation’s most underinsured ethnic group, support the reform package.

But such growth is also likely to trigger a spike in the need for medical translation, which the new legislation mandates must be “culturally and linguistically appropriate.” Plus, this now applies not only to health plan details, but also benefit, prescription, and treatment information, a big change. And most significantly perhaps it must all be completed by July 1, 2011.

Today’s uninsured are ready. But will the industry be ready to receive them?

Till next time,

Healthcare innovations should not neglect medical translation needs

Among the intentions of the new health reform legislation is an expansion of choice for today’s healthcare consumer. This focus is already casting into sharper relief the imperative for providers to effectively communicate with their audiences, especially its limited English proficient (LEP) audiences.

HealthPartners, a provider and insurer in Minnesota, recently launched a novel remote diagnosis service. Called Virtuwell, the new service is available online, offering treatment for a range of common conditions that don’t typically require an actual exam. These include colds, allergy-related issues, ear pain, yeast and urinary tract infections, and a host of others.

Patients visiting the site are first asked a set of standard questions en route to diagnosis. The answers are then reviewed by a nurse practitioner, who then contacts the patient directly about 30 minutes later.

It is hoped that the service, which costs about $40 and is available to anyone living in or visiting Minnesota, will streamline the process for medical staff, while enabling patients to enjoy more immediate care and assistance and at a lower cost.

On that score it is a laudable effort. But what is not mentioned, and what seems absent after a brief tour of the Virtuwell site, are any language options. In a state that recent census data identifies as being comprised of a population that is 5 percent foreign born (more than 260,000 people), such an option seems like a missed opportunity.

Till next time,

Can Accountable Care Organizations deliver low-cost, high-quality care?

If you are a healthcare professional, you have likely heard of “accountable care organizations” or “ACOs.” If not, here are the basics of this key piece of the healthcare legislation.

Today, most hospitals and doctors work independently, which some claim can drive up costs and compromise quality. ACOs were conceived to promote coordination and cooperation among providers with the intention of boosting the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries and cutting costs.

It works like this: Your organization is paid to cover the cost of care for Medicare beneficiaries in a given area, and if you are able to meet quality and cost-saving targets, you earn financial rewards for doing so. It’s an idea that grew out of research conducted by Dr. Elliot Fisher as part of his Dartmouth Atlas Project, a 30-year investigation into the variations in care across the country.

A few healthcare systems around the country are already exploring the possible benefits of ACOs, including two competing hospitals in Omaha, Nebr., and a large hospital system and health insurer in Louisville, Ky.

While shared savings programs and ACOs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries are an important parts of the new health reform law, antikickback laws, antitrust laws, and other federal rules are proving a challenge as government agencies seek to write the rules for ACOs.

The legislation calls for ACOs to roll out by January 1, 2012. To learn more about ACOs and which organizations are eligible, check out the Q&A from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Till next time,

Independent healthcare plan helping innovate in Minnesota

These days the issue of healthcare too often tends to devolve into a fractious back and forth about healthcare reform. Unfortunately, this means that all the great and innovative work so many healthcare professionals are doing to better serve patients can be overlooked.

I’m glad that as a part of the work we do at viaLanguage I get to be in regular contact with a great many of these innovators. UCare and its efforts with the Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) is just one example.

An independent non-profit health plan, (and a viaLanguage client!), UCare provides healthcare and administrative services to more than 160,000 members. It partners with healthcare providers, counties, and community organizations to create and deliver innovative health coverage products addressing a variety of Medicare, special needs plans, and state public programs members.

Part of UCare’s efforts includes offering incentives to clinics and care systems that deliver improved quality of care. This means rewarding providers serving Medicaid beneficiaries enrolled in MHCP, and expanding pay for performance (P4P) to include providers serving Medicare members.

What’s more, UCare’s MHCP P4P Plan and Medicare P4P Plan reward providers that show, within certain identified areas, any improvement over the previous year. It analyzes member health outcomes, while identifying those areas where improvement incentives are warranted. In 2009, UCare made P4P payments to 60 percent of the eligible care systems serving MHCP members.

It’s stories like this that inspire the industry to continue think creatively about meeting patient needs. And that can be powerful indeed. To learn more, check out the full UCare case study.

Till next time,