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Health Law Brings Translation Work to Akorbi

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A Plano-based translation company is seeing a surge in demand for its services from the health insurance industry as provisions of the health reform law broaden the requirements for information in multiple languages.

The Affordable Care Act seeks to extend health insurance to 30 million Americans, of whom an estimated 10 million don’t speak English as their primary language. That’s when Akorbi steps in, with the ability to translate documents into Japanese, Arabic, Navajo and a host of other languages.

Akorbi’s knowledge of the health care industry and its ability to meet strict security measures relating to medical records position the translation and interpretation company to take advantage of the act, which contains a requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance or pay a fine, said Claudia Mirza, Akorbi’s founder and CEO. The act was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in June.

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One challenge insurance companies are facing is how to effectively communicate with the millions of Americans who have limited English proficiency while meeting communication regulations imposed by the law, Mirza said.

Akorbi’s technology translates personalized health insurance letters, benefit summaries, marketing materials and other information, usually in a matter of hours.

“There are very few companies in the country that can provide the amount of security that we are providing and understand the health care industry the way that we do,” Mirza said.

The health reform law broadens the number of languages in which health insurance carriers are required to communicate with plan members, Mirza said. Akorbi provides services in more than 170 languages, with the most popular being Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Korean and Vietnamese. The company is getting increasing requests for services in Navajo and Russian, she said.

Akorbi’s clients include six of the largest insurance companies in the country, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture, said Azam Mirza, president of Akorbi and Claudia’s husband.

Akorbi has 74 employees, more than twice the number the company had five years ago, Azam Mirza said. The company expects to employ 150 by 2014, he said. Most of the additions will be linguists, project managers, programming and technology positions and sales jobs, he said.

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Akorbi doesn’t release its revenue, but that number has been growing by about 40 percent annually since 2008, Azam Mirza said. Because of new health-related and other work coming in, the company expects to double its revenue by 2013, he said.

Last year, Akorbi started consulting health insurance clients to help them implement compliance-related policies and procedures.

Akorbi’s compliance division helps clients with legal issues, including Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services compliance, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance and quality management. In addition, the company has a highly secure data center that supports compliance standards for CMS, HIPAA, Affordable Care Act and other government regulations, Azam Mirza said.

Insurance information is required in a “culturally and linguistically appropriate language,” according to Margaret Jarvis, spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas in Richardson. The company contracts with vendors for translation work, she said. Health insurance companies are required to provide information in languages most commonly spoken in “concentrated communities” in the United States: Spanish, Chinese, Tagolog and Navajo, Jarvis said.

Blue Cross tracks members’ language choice for future communications, Jarvis said.

What languages insurance carriers must offer depends on the size of the group covered, the percentage within the group that requests information and the demographics of the county in which the coverage is provided, Azam Mirza said.

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In addition, the advent of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act is opening the market for insurance companies to go after individual members, Claudia Mirza said. That’s causing insurance companies to translate their offerings into multiple languages so they can reach more potential customers, she said.

“A significant number of health insurance carriers are making changes because they want to make it more appealing and more friendly to the members,” she said. “Now that they are going to have this market of individual people available for them to sell policies to, they’re deciding to change their communications.

“It’s revolutionizing the industry and sending more work our way.”

bhethcock@bizjournals.com | 214-706-7125

Bill covers health care, law and education.

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