No state steps to reach non-English speakers
Posted: March 5, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — It has been nearly three years since the overhaul of the nation’s health care system began, but for some it’s like it never happened.
Many Spanish-speaking residents in the Winchester area are not informed about the law’s provisions, and currently there are no outreach efforts to educate them about changes in the health care industry brought on by the Affordable Care Act.
Victor Hugo Ramirez, head of a local organization that helps Spanish-speaking immigrants adjust to life in the area, said that most Hispanophones in the area are oblivious to President Barack Obama’s health care revamp.
“I don’t think people know about it,” he said. “A lot of [Spanish speakers] here also don’t have health insurance.”
There were 7,055 Spanish-speaking residents in Winchester and Frederick County as of 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Of those, the data shows, more than 4,000 spoke English “less than very well.”
Ramirez estimates that there are about 4,000 illegal Spanish-speaking immigrants in Winchester and Frederick county who are unaffected by the reforms.
There are hundreds of other local residents who speak other languages — including Mandarin, Tagalog and Korean — who also reported speaking English less than very well.
Charles Devine, director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said Monday that he is not aware of any Virginia Department of Health plans to reach out to non-English-speaking residents about the Affordable Care Act.
“We haven’t received any direction from Richmond,” he said.
Divine said that the Lord Fairfax Health District — which provides public health services to Winchester and Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah and Page counties — does have Spanish-speaking employees who can provide information if residents seek help.
Local hospitals aren’t picking up the slack for state and federal government as hospitals in the Northern Shenandoah Valley also haven’t started any outreach to non-English speakers, said a spokeswoman for Valley Health, which operates Winchester Medical Center and five other regional hospitals.
By the time all Affordable Care Act policies have been implemented, Valley Health officials expect that the federal government and the Virginia Department of Health will have appropriate information available for non-English speakers, the spokeswoman said.
— Contact Conor Gallagher at email@example.com