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Ask Ms. Medicare

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En español | Q. I guess many people find Medicare hard to understand, but it’s worse when English isn’t your first language. Is there any help for us?

A. Yes — quite a lot when you know where to look. Try these:

•  Medicare’s official publications are all available in Spanish, and some of them are available in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian. The Medicare website at can be read in Spanish — click on the “Español” button at the top of the home page or link directly to the Spanish site. Spanish-speaking customer representatives are available at Medicare’s telephone help line at 1-800-633-4227. You can also arrange, on request, to be put in contact with a representative who speaks your own language — more than 70 languages are available.

•  Social Security (where you go to sign up for Medicare Parts A and B and also to apply for Part D’s low-cost Extra Help drug benefit) gives help and information in many languages. Its website at can be read in Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Tagalog and Vietnamese. To choose your language, click on the “Other Languages” button at the top right of the home page. You can also ask for free interpreter services in any language when you call Social Security’s help line at 1-800-772-1213 (press 2 for Spanish or 1 for any other language) or when you arrange to visit a local office.

•  State health insurance assistance programs (SHIPs) provide free, expert counseling on the phone or in person on any Medicare or Medicaid issue. This service is available in more than 150 languages — just ask to talk with a counselor who speaks yours. There’s a SHIP in every state, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To find the phone number of your SHIP, call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or go online to or to

• National Alliance for Hispanic Health provides information and personal counseling on health issues, including Medicare and the Part D prescription drug program, in Spanish and English for Hispanics around the country. Call its toll-free phone help line (Su Familia) at 1-866-783-2645 or go to its website at

• National Asian Pacific Center on Aging ( provides a national multilingual helpline so that Asian and Pacific Islander seniors can call NAPCA counselors and get help with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage in their own language. Call the following numbers toll-free according to the language you want to use:  Chinese: 1-800-582-4218 / Korean: 1-800-582-4259 / Vietnamese: 1-800-582-4336 / English: 1-800-336-2722.

Patricia Barry is a senior editor for AARP Integrated Media.

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