Maryland Plans to Break Language Barriers in Healthcare

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland officials are planning a variety of ways to reach people who do not speak English well to help them obtain insurance under the federal health care law, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Health Exchange said Monday.

Danielle Davis, the spokeswoman, said advertising on radio, television and social media will be part of an overall plan.

“We’re still in the process of developing what that’s going to look like,” Davis said, adding that it is expected to begin in July.

A call center with access to translators also will be created. The state will have an organization in six regions of Maryland comprised of people with familiarity of the areas for outreach. Plans also call for getting the word out through faith-based groups.

“We’re not just using a one-size-fits-all approach,” Davis said.

There are about 307,932 people in Maryland who speak English less than very well, according to the 2007 census. Of them, about 142,643 speak Spanish. People who speak Chinese comprise the next highest number of people who don’t speak English very well, about 28,039. Korean speakers are the next highest number of people who don’t speak English very well, about 21,005.

As part of the statewide campaign to raise awareness about changes from the health care overhaul, materials in various languages will be available for download from the Internet with information on how to get insurance.

The state also is considering newsletters distributed through faith-based organizations to specific communities where languages such as Russian, German or Korean are spoken.

A conference has been scheduled for May 14 with leaders from a variety of faith backgrounds across the state on how they can spread word, Davis said.

A call center is scheduled to open in July with a language line that can provide translation assistance in 35 languages, Davis said.

Maryland has about 730,000 uninsured residents, about 14 percent of the population. An open enrollment campaign to get insurance will start in October.

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(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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