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I received this from the Bronx Health Link e-newsletter.  Please act now!

Deadline: Tuesday, January 11 at 5 PM

The federal Medicare agency is considering a regulation that would require private Medicare plans (Part C and D plans) to translate written materials ONLY into the languages spoken by 10% of the population in the plan’s service area. Under this standard most of the approximately 3 million limited English proficient Medicare enrollees would not get translated materials from their plans.  Even Spanish-speaking enrollees would be left out in many states. In New York State, hospitals are required to provide translations for languages spoken by 1% of the population or more, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s own guidelines suggest a 5% threshold.

The standard could spillover to Medicare Parts A&B, Medicaid and coverage offered in the new health insurance exchanges.  It is CRITICAL that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adopt a more generous standard to serve as a model for other programs.

The Bronx Health Link strongly encourages readers to send at least a brief message to the Medicare agency opposing the 10% threshold.

According to Nisha Agarwal of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest: “Groups are highly encouraged to submit comments to CMS by the deadline of 5pm on Tuesday, January 11th asking for a lower translation threshold.Your comments need not be extensive (blurb below), but it is critical that as many folks weigh in on our side of the issue as possible to send a clear message to CMS.”

The National Senior Citizens Law Center, National Health Law Program and Center for Medicare Advocacy, which are taking the lead on this issue, are urging the following actions by advocates:

1. FILE COMMENTS:

a. Go to  www.regulations.gov

b. Click on “submit a comment” and select “document type” as proposed rule and “keyword” as 4144

c. Scroll down and choose “Medicare Program: Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs for Contract Year 2010” and click on “submit a comment” on right side

d. [Ignore the fact it says deadline is 1/21/11, deadline is 1/11/11 and has been corrected elsewhere]

e. Paste in the comments below, or write your own, then “Submit”

On behalf of [organization/myself], I wish to comment on the 10% threshold for translating Medicare plan materials that is codified here.  I am…[sentence about self, organization or work with LEP individuals].  The 10% standard is far too high.  A more appropriate standard would be “5% of population, or 500 persons in service area.”  10% should not be used here. {Consider adding information about the impact on your clients when they cannot get documents in a language that they understand.}

2    Forward this email to all of your contacts – other advocates, providers, interpreters, beneficiaries affected, and urge them to also file comments.  The more comments filed, the more CMS is likely to pay serious attention to this issue.

3.   If you are bilingual or work with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations, consider having them file comments in other languages as well as in English, for impact.

For more on the background of this issue, go tohttp://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=55tdqcdab&v=001_7pdtf0NbxOP2QisbbIL2G9kByIw8w2z6vBlwrb-GkQQh1mFsttpbMyJOowCk1QT5zlaM1ONJMVASa7ni-yZxMZvpNQo_hwd7q_KnjQFpFYneCSR0OCmqWYbnB5D8WxfLEwDZ4ZxI_bbh12UVEkRrA%3D%3D

For more information about commenting and the proposed regulations, see

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-28774.pdf

DISCLAIMER: The Bronx Health Link presents this e-newsletter purely as a means to forward information and viewpoints to our subscribers in order to facilitate their own informed decision-making. Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Bronx Health Link, and inclusion of information about an event, article, or resource does not constitute an endorsement by the Bronx Health Link.

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