Improving Access to Medicaid for People with Limited English Proficiency

Improving Access to Medicaid for People with Limited English Proficiency

APRIL 2024

By Gabrielle Lessard, Senior Policy Counsel, Health Justice, and Ben D’Avanzo, Senior Strategist, Health Advocacy

Individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) are three times more likely to be uninsured compared to fluent English speakers, primarily due to their overrepresentation in jobs that do not offer employer-sponsored coverage. Additionally, within this demographic and other low-income populations, many are eligible for Medicaid but remain unenrolled. This unenrollment disproportionately affects LEP individuals and households headed by LEP individuals, highlighting the need for assistance in enrollment and retention within the program.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acknowledges that language assistance is integral to the equitable provision of its programs, including Medicaid. Federal and state laws mandate that state Medicaid agencies provide language assistance to LEP individuals. However, feedback from enrollees and service organizations indicates that the current language assistance efforts are insufficient.

This summary presents recommendations for both state Medicaid agencies and HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to improve language access in Medicaid to promote participation in and utilization of the Medicaid program by everyone who is eligible.

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