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GAO report finds CMS lacks clear plan for addressing needs of limited English proficiency callers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is responsible for providing beneficiaries timely and accurate information about Medicare. Receiving nearly 30 million calls in 2007, 1-800-MEDICARE, operated by a contractor, is the most common way members of the public get program information. The help line provides services both to English-speaking and limited English proficiency (LEP) callers. In this report, GAO describes (1) the extent to which access performance standards and targets have been met by the current contractor, (2) the efforts by CMS to provide LEP callers access to help line services and wait times experienced by these callers, and (3) CMS's oversight of callers' access to 1-800-MEDICARE and the information's accuracy. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed documents and analyzed help line data through July 2008. In addition, GAO interviewed agency staff, industry experts, and officials at four federal agencies with high call volume contact centers.

What GAO Recommends

To ensure CMS offices, including those that oversee the operation of 1-800-MEDICARE, are aware of, and take steps consistent with, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) LEP Plan when considering the needs of people with LEP, CMS should designate an official or office with responsibility for managing the LEP Plan. In commenting on a draft of this report, CMS generally concurred with our recommendation.

Complete Report:

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