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Improving Access To Care Among Medicare Beneficiaries with Limited English Proficiency: Can Medicare Do More?

Patient-provider communication is essential for effective management of chronic illness. However, significant numbers of Medicare beneficiaries either do not speak English at all or are limited in their ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. Based on projections by the Census Bureau, the numbers of Asian and Hispanic older adults are expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, highlighting the need for public policies to ensure language access for Medicare beneficiaries. This paper discusses potential problems that can arise when patients and providers experience language barriers, provides an overview of federal efforts to create language access, identifies ways in which language services can be provided in health care settings, and identifies policy options for Medicare to consider. (19 pages)

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