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Help Someone Apply for Medicare Who Needs Help with English

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Comprehending the complexities of Medicare — let alone the jargon that officials often use in trying to explain them — is hard enough even for native English speakers, but it’s far more difficult if your English is less than fluent. So when signing up for Medicare, don’t hesitate to ask for help to make sure you fully understand what you’re told.

Everyone has the right to ask for an interpreter when calling the Social Security Administration or visiting a local SSA office. Interpreters are available at no charge in more than 150 languages. But when calling the main SSA main number listed earlier, it isn’t immediately obvious how you can request interpreter services. Here’s what to do:

  1. When your call goes through, an automated voice tells you to press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish. If Spanish is the language you need, press 2. For any other language, press 1. Then, when the voice invites you to say what kind of service you need, say “operator.”

  2. When you’re connected to a customer service representative, say “I need an interpreter in [language].” This official will ask you to stay on the line while someone who speaks your language is contacted.

  3. The interpreter comes to the phone to translate what you and the official say to each other.

You can request the same service if you make an appointment to visit your local Social Security office. And of course, if you speak little English, a friend or family member can do all this work for you, if you allow that person to state your Social Security number while making the call.

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