The health insurance agency and brokerage services classified as public exchange Web broker entities really will have to offer telephonic interpreter services in 150 languages for the 2016 open enrollment period.
Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) set that translation standard in a new batch of final regulations describing Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) program parameters for 2016.
The standard would not apply to ordinary retail agents and brokers who use HealthCare.gov to help consumers enroll in coverage. The standard would apply to Web broker entities that give consumers the ability to enroll in PPACA exchange coverage through their own websites. For Web broker entities that are already registered with an exchange, the interpreter requirement is set to take effect Nov. 15, 2015, or the scheduled start date for the third annual PPACA open enrollment period.
Newly registered Web brokers would have to meet the requirement within one year of getting registered with an exchange.
PPACA officially requires navigators, or nonprofit exchange user helpers, to offer services “in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to the needs of the population being served by the exchange or exchanges,” but CMS, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has declined to require navigators and other non-Web-broker exchange helpers to offer 150-language telephonic interpreter services.
Other provisions already require navigators that get HHS grants to provide help in a consumer’s preferred language, officials say.
The new final regulations are the finished version of draft regulations posted in November.
A number of telephonic interpreter services advertise their rates on the Web. ABS Telephonic, for example, says it offers real-time access to live interpreters in over 50 languages for $30 for the first 10 minutes and $3 for each additional minute.
Officials say they will monitor the telephonic interpreter industry and may change the requirement if the industry changes.
Officials will also require a PPACA exchange, an exchange qualified health plan (QHP) issuer and a Web broker entity to offer written translations of critical coverage access documents in the 15 languages most frequently spoken by the people in the organization’s state who have trouble with English.