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Non-English speakers may struggle with health insurance exchange

Published 10:31am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Minnesota’s proposed health insurance exchange program is difficult enough to explain, but plenty of Mower County residents and businesses will have issues describing the issue to residents who don’t speak English as their main language.

There are a little more than 5,000 Mower County residents who speak another language instead of or besides English at home, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Of those residents, there are hundreds who don’t speak English very well.

Many of those residents usually find translation services for various bills and documents throughout town, at places like the Welcome Center of Austin. Welcome Center staff will translate documents or do on-site translation work for local residents.

“The majority [of translation work] is English to Spanish, Spanish to English,” said Jake Vela, executive director of the Welcome Center.

Vela said some residents will ask for Vietnamese translations, but more often than not residents are looking for Spanish-related translation services. Though Welcome Center staff and volunteers haven’t discussed preparing to translate health exchange program documents, Vela said residents are always welcome to contact the Welcome Center, which also has a network of volunteers who speak other languages.


Speaking on health

Mower County has a diverse population, thousands of whom speak other languages besides English at home. Here’s a breakdown of residents who speak other languages at home who speak English less than “very well,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Mower County population age 5 and older: 36,186
Speaks only English: 31,953
Spanish: 3,203 — speaks English less than “very well”: 1,934
German: 102 — speaks English less than “very well”: 14
Laotian: 213 — speaks English less than “very well”: 149
Arabic: 173 — speaks English less than “very well”: 68
Chinese: 40 — speaks English less than “very well”: 18
Vietnamese: 71 — speaks English less than “very well”: 56
Korean: 45 — speaks English less than “very well”: 22
Serbo-Croatian: 74 — speaks English less than “very well”: 15
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007-2011 estimates

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