Topics: Obamacare

Spanish-language Obamacare website more like 'Spanglish,' Spanish speakers say

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Watchdog,Obamacare,Health Care,Accountability,Healthcare.gov,Race and Diversity

The Spanish version of the Obamacare website is lost in translation.

Some fluent speakers of Spanish have found problems with the government's supposed all-Spanish alternative to healthcare.gov, cuidadodesalud.gov. They say the wording is closer to "Spanglish," the slang term for a loosely translated mix of Spanish and English.

Luis Alvarez-Castro, a University of Florida associate professor of English and graduate coordinator, said that although his brief visit to the site unearthed no major grammatical or spelling errors, many of the translations were literal and not correct.

For example, a video caption for "individuals" was translated to the Spanish word “individuales,” which does indeed translate literally to "individuals" — but it refers to things like single-occupancy rooms, single-serving portions and twin-size beds, and not people.

“In other cases, such as in 'condiciones preexistentes,' ” the translation is not completely accurate," Castro said. " ‘Condicion’ does not exactly mean the same thing in English, but is probably more easily understandable by Spanish-speaking users living in the U.S. than the correct term. Let’s say that this might be considered as Spanglish."

In another example, "premium" was translated as "prima." Alvarez-Castro said “this might be a regional issue, since that term is perfectly valid in Spain but maybe not in every Latin American country.”

Florida Watchdog's Spanish-language reporter conducted her own experiment and came across words that could have been translated more precisely.

For example, the verb “llenar” was used to say “fill out the form” when the more appropriate word would have been “completar.” It was written as if the writer had used a generic online translator.

To Adrian Madriz, a health care consultant in Miami, the Spanish website is incomplete.

“When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish. So we end up having to translate it for them,” he told Foxlatino.com.

But whether the problems with the website will discourage Hispanics from signing up is still not known.

Alvarez-Castro said that even with all of its translation gaffes, he doesn’t see anything that would prevent a Spanish-speaking user from successfully enrolling in the plan.

The bigger question is whether the government got its money’s worth. According to USASpending.gov, CGI Federal, the information-technology contractor hired in September 2011 to build the complex computer system for healthcare.gov received $204.5 million.

But even with all that money, the contractor couldn’t seem to get it right and failed to bring the site online by the Oct. 1 deadline.

So on Jan. 10, the Obama administration announced that it ended its contract with CGI and was putting the finishing touches on a new 12-month, $90 million contract with Accenture.

According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-policy research organization, Hispanics account for roughly 17 percent of the population, but make up nearly 32 percent of the country’s non-elderly uninsured.

A Harvard University poll found that of the Millennial generation, only 30 percent of Hispanics younger than 30 said they would buy insurance on the Obamacare exchanges if they were eligible. A third said they are 50-50, and another third said they would not participate.

Marianela Toledo is a reporter Florida Watchdog, which is affiliated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.
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