Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Les problèmes de notre Couverture Maladie- Vous me comprendrez?

Healthcare, its availability and affordability, is a major concern for a good percentage of people, particularly here in New York. Despite working at a doctor's office for over a year, and sometimes as a translator for the patients, I didn't think about how hard it is for non-English immigrants to use our current healthcare system due to language barriers. The ones in real trouble are the senior citizens, who need the health services and cheaper medication, but are lost in all the paper shuffling. Medicare has a Spanish hotline, however, in a city with so many Asians, why isn't there a single one Korean, or Hindu, or Mandarin? Right now, it's mainly up to the discretion of private companies--and there are a few who basically hold niche positions within each community--as well as volunteers in local associations.
It happened to my grandmother. She tried to switch from Oxford to AARP because a representative convinced her that AARP had better dental, and that representative misfiled her information. She ended up losing her Medicare as well, and went without insurance for half a year while she was listed as participating with both plans, they were also both inactive. (Note, if an insurance company can hire representatives who speak other languages, then they should absolutely hire support staff who speak the same languages). She tried to take care of the issue herself, but all three spoke only English and Spanish. She had help writing letters, but she couldn't answer any of the resulting phone calls.
It took me only a day to take care of it.
Many immigrants have probably faced similar situations, but because they didn't know anyone who had the time and fluency to help, they gave up and went without insurance.
It's something to think about.

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