January 15, 2014

HealthCare.gov en español is lost in translation

Lessons weren’t learned from the October ACA flawed rollout.

Just when the Obama administration was beginning to overcome the self-inflicted embarrassment caused by its messy launch of the federal healthcare exchange website, it has again delighted naysayers and frustrated supporters — this time, in Spanish.

Or more accurately, in Spanglish.

HealthCare.gov’s Spanish counterpart, “CuidadoDeSalud.gov,” rolled out in December, with far less fanfare than its sister site, but with a unique set of problems.

The Associated Press reported that the website is riddled with grammatical errors so rudimentary they could have been caused only by computer-generated translation. In addition, some pages of the website inexplicably revert to English. The result is a website that is more “Spanglish” than Spanish.

More than 2 million Texans are Spanish-speakers, and Hispanics are uninsured at a much higher rate than non-Hispanic whites.

Tim McKinney, president and CEO of United Way of Tarrant County, the organization that helps administer the state’s healthcare navigator program, says that Spanish-speakers constitute a significant part of the population it assists.

Because uninsured Hispanics are often unfamiliar with how insurance works, not to mention the lexicon of the industry, the confused and sloppy translations only add to the alienation and trouble of a population that is crucial to making the exchanges work.

Being that a crucial element of the White House strategy to enroll 7 million Americans was to target the huge uninsured Hispanic population — 10.2 million Hispanics are eligible for coverage, per White House estimates — which skews young and healthy, this is more than a gratuitous oversight. It’s a spectacular failure.

Expectations for a glitch-free site were low, but that doesn’t excuse the problems, particularly given the high rate of uninsured Hispanics in states like Texas who rely on the federal exchange.

Many Texans are not in favor of the ACA. Those who are should be more vocal about their disappointment with yet another element of the law that is failing the people it was designed to help.

It’s safe to assume the lessons of the botched October rollout of the original site were lost in translation.

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