Medicare Plans Not Posting Translated Materials Leaving Spanish Beneficiaries in the Dark

Many Medicare Advantage plans and others that offer Medicare prescription drug coverage are not publishing materials in Spanish on their websites as required by their contracts as Medicare providers. This makes it especially difficult for many beneficiaries to make the right decision about choosing a plan during the current Medicare Part D open enrollment period.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires such plans to make marketing materials available in any language that is the primary language of more than 10 percent of a plan sponsor’s service area and post those materials on the plan’s website.

National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC) staff visited Medicare Part C and D plan sites in zip codes where many Spanish-speaking beneficiaries live. In areas of both Los Angeles and Miami, for example, the organization found that most plans had not posted any of the required documents.

“Plain and simple, plans need to meet their obligations and we have asked CMS to look into this quickly and let us know that they are dealing with the issue so that people can make decisions before Part D open enrollment is over,” said NSCLC Deputy Director Kevin Prindiville. “It’s unfortunate, but we see health insurance companies marketing their Medicare plans aggressively to Spanish speakers but not giving them the information they need to make an informed choice.  This will mean a lot of people will be in the dark about their options this open enrollment season.”

The required documents include, but are not limited to, the plan formulary, summary of benefits and evidence of coverage.

NSCLC looked at all Medicare Part C and D plans serving Zip Codes 90010 (Los Angeles, California) and Zip Code 33129 (Miami, Florida), looking for postings of the Formulary, Summary of Benefits and Evidence of Coverage  documents in Spanish.  NSCLC developed a spread sheet to show the results in detail.

NSCLC has been advocating for improved language access in Medicare Part D since the beginning of the program. The survey did not include several other documents for which Web postings of Spanish translations are also required.  It also did not address whether Spanish language versions of the documents exist at all.

To see the survey results, click here.

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