Arkansas Health Care Info to be Printed in Spanish

LITTLE ROCK - Understanding the federal health care overhaul can be a challenge of its own.

Now, officials in Arkansas and across the country are trying to figure out how to explain the law to non-English speakers.

"I think the primary challenge will be trust," said Cynthia Crone, who heads the Health Benefits Exchange Partnership division in Arkansas. "How do we connect with someone who they trust? I think you trust people who are more like you, who can speak your language, who understand your culture."

To that end, Crone says materials about the health insurance exchange will go out in English, Spanish and other languages as needed.

Efforts to reach non-English speakers come as officials in Arkansas move forward with plans to partner with the federal government on setting up the state's health insurance exchange, a market aimed at helping the uninsured purchase coverage.

The Arkansas Insurance Department estimates that 211,000 people will purchase private insurance through the exchange once it's up and running. The department projects that number would double if Arkansas expands its Medicaid eligibility.

To make sure the efforts to inform people about the exchange are extended to people who don't speak English well or at all, Crone said they'll be looking for groups and guides with ties to non-English speaking communities.

"We know that in our state many folks who are non-English speaking are also likely to be uninsured or underinsured," Crone said.

About 162,700 people - more than 6 percent of Arkansas' population age 5 and older - spoke a language other than English at home, according to census estimates from 2007. The vast majority of those people speak Spanish. Other languages include German, French and Vietnamese.

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