We are committed to keeping our clients informed about the latest regulations impacting their industry. This blog is the first in a two-part series that highlights a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ruling to strengthen language access requirements for Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.

Here we cover regulations aimed at ensuring accessible, clear, and effective written communication between healthcare organizations and the linguistically diverse populations they serve. The second will cover interpretation and verbal communication.

Why the Changes?

Previously, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans were required to translate essential materials into any non-English language spoken by at least 5% of the population in their service area. Additionally, plans were obligated to provide accessible formats (Braille, large print, audio recordings) upon request.


However, concerns arose regarding the usability of these services. Enrollees often had to repeatedly request materials in their preferred language or accessible format, hindering effective communication.


Also, the increasing number of dually eligible individuals (enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid plans) presented further challenges. In some cases, Medicaid standards mandated translation into languages not previously required by Medicare Advantage.


New regulations address these concerns and aim to create a more streamlined and inclusive experience for limited English speakers.


What's Changing?


Effective for the contract year of 2024, the new regulations require Medicare Advantage organizations, cost plans, and Part D sponsors to provide the following without waiting for individual requests unless otherwise noted:

  • Provide essential materials proactively: This includes translating marketing communications, member handbooks, and required notices into any non-English language spoken by at least 5% of the population in their service area.
  • Automatically deliver future materials in the preferred format: Once an enrollee's language preference or need for an accessible format is identified, the plan must automatically provide future materials in the appropriate format, eliminating the need for repeated requests.
  • Offer accessible formats on a standing basis: Individuals with visual, hearing, or other disabilities can access materials in Braille, large print, or audio recordings upon request or once their needs are known.
  • Meet additional language requirements for specific plans: Fully and highly integrated dual-eligible, special-needs plans must adhere to both the Medicare translation standards and any additional language requirements outlined in their Medicaid capitated contracts.

Steps You Should Take


MA and PD plan sponsors must take necessary steps to ensure compliance with these new regulations. Here's what you should to do:

  • Review and update your language access procedures: Develop a system to identify and record enrollee preferences regarding language and communication format needs.
  • Inventory and translate marketing materials: Identify materials requiring translation based on the language demographics of your service area.
  • Develop a plan for format conversion: Ensure the capability to convert essential documents into various accessible formats, catering to individuals with disabilities.
  • Train your staff: Educate staff on the new regulations and how to effectively handle enrollee inquiries related to language access and communication formats.
  • Partner with a qualified language services provider. Partners like LanguageLine ensure accurate and culturally appropriate translations.

Partnering for Seamless Compliance


LanguageLine offers end-to-end consulting to assist in helping you comply with these new standards. We also have a CMS expert on staff to assist with your understanding of all regulations.

For individual steps listed above, LanguageLine offers a comprehensive suite of solutions, including translation and localization services; accessible document conversion; and professional medical interpretation in over 240 languages.

By partnering with LanguageLine, you can ensure compliance with CMS requirements, while at the same time improving communication with diverse patients and fostering a more inclusive healthcare environment for all.

We invite you to contact us today to discuss your language access needs and how we can help you seamlessly comply with CMS requirements.


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