A man speaking on a headset

Interpretation Services for Medicare

Lionbridge interpreters work with state healthcare providers to enroll limited English proficient individuals

Over 52.6 million Americans are currently enrolled in Medicare. As of 2014, roughly 8% of those beneficiaries are limited English proficient (LEP) individuals who primarily speak a language other than English. As the COVID-19 pandemic has moved many essential services online, phone interpretation services for those who need to enroll in healthcare have become more important than ever. Lionbridge’s real-time phone interpretation services cross language barriers to ensure LEP individuals can enroll in healthcare and communicate healthcare concerns in their native language.

How does phone interpretation for public healthcare enrollment work?

LEP individuals looking to enroll in public healthcare will typically dial into a call center and indicate the language in which they’d like to communicate. The call center agent will then conference in a Lionbridge interpreter. Interpreters can help the agent and enrollee talk through any questions about eligibility or benefits and help them fill out forms online. Alternatively, in a public hospital setting interpreters tend to dial in on speakerphone or through a dual handset phone and are involved in a conversation between a patient and a healthcare provider. The COVID-19 pandemic has made phone interpretation much more common as services have shifted from walk in centers to online.

“In those face-to-face interactions, people used in-person interpreters,” said John Drugan, Government Sales Director for Lionbridge. “But we’ve seen contracts expand two to three times for phone interpretation services from pre-pandemic levels. It really speaks to our ability to scale adequately.”

Lionbridge has existing state contracts available for public health agencies to leverage in the follow states:

  • Washington
  • Georgia
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Massachusetts
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina

“The interpreter was outstanding, very thorough and took the time to make sure the client understood everything that was explained,” said one representative from a state health agency of working with Lionbridge. “He was also very helpful when I asked him to clarify certain points. I feel he really helped me provide excellent customer service to the client and resolve their concern.”

See it in action:

A state created a new contract with Lionbridge in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. The pandemic moved the state’s health agency operations to primarily remote, creating a need for interpreters to be able to assist people by phone. Call volumes to the agency were two to three times higher than usual. Lionbridge was able to assist LEP individuals, increase fulfillment rates and lower connection times across languages.

A man typing on a laptop

Why are phone interpretation services important in Medicare enrollment?

Even when in-person communication is possible, interpretation services offer unique benefits over relying on a bilingual staff member to translate. Interpreters have specific training and knowledge of the subject for which they are translating. “People who are bilingual are not also interpreters by nature,” Drugan said. “Interpreters know to manage the flow of the conversation, are professionally trained, and they know how to register tone and accuracy.”

Phone interpretation services can also provide a much wider range of languages than would be possible in person: Lionbridge offers over 380 languages. Less common languages that may only have a few thousand speakers in the United States are also more easily accessible through phone interpretation.

See it in action:

In 2018, a state-level health agency saw long wait times for the lesser known languages of both Hmong and Rohingya, partly the result of a large influx of Rohingya refugees being relocated to the state. The state health agency was also experiencing low fulfilment rates—meaning interpreters were frequently unavailable in these desired languages with their incumbent provider. The agency reached out to Lionbridge, who has experience in fulfilling language needs for Hmong and Rohingya on a regular basis. Lionbridge worked with the agency to lower wait times to well under 30 seconds in each language group and increase fulfillment rates of over 99%.

An interpreter speaking on a headset

Why Lionbridge?

Healthcare interpreters need to be trained to handle medical situations, including learning specific medical terminology and learning how to stay impartial and composed in high-stress situations. Lionbridge provides specific training for healthcare interpreters, ensuring they are able to handle anything that comes their way. We also provide client-specific training, where interpreters are trained in specific expectations and terms from a health agency.

Lionbridge has over 30 years of phone interpretation experience, and offers over 380 languages.

“You’re never going to have to turn someone away because they don’t speak English or a common non-English language,” said Drugan.

Want to learn more about interpretation services for Medicare enrollment?

Be ready for the next Medicare open enrollment period—starting October 15th—by contracting with Lionbridge. Contact us today.

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Christy Kuesel
Christy Kuesel