As many Lake County seniors know, Medicare has been sending out new cards for those 65 and older. An older acquaintance received his new one last month and was complaining about the informational page that accompanied the card.
“It said ‘Help in other languages’,” the geezer noted. “Here, look at this.” It was a well-worn sheet of paper which I figured he had passed around and around to his flock of cronies.
It said Medicare offers information in 16 foreign languages at no cost. They’ll even provide an interpreter if one has questions about Medicare coverage and doesn’t speak English.
To me, that’s great service. Especially considering the reason Medicare sent out new cards to those enrolled was to replace earlier versions that included Social Security numbers. In this age of scammers lurking in every corner of our commercial world, one can’t be too careful.
The codger, though, believes if you get government help, you should speak the mother tongue. Even for those non-English speakers who have paid over the years into the national health-care system mainly reserved for senior citizens.
Looking closer at the sheet, what struck me was the wide range of translators Medicare has at its disposal to aid those with questions about the service. The languages they speak included Arabic, Armenian, Farsi, Chinese, French, German, Creole, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
Also included is Russian. That’s one less issue for Comrade Putin to bring up with President Trump at the upcoming fall summit between the two state leaders.
Certainly, Medicare has missed a few European languages, and those of some Pacific Islanders. Regardless, what a smorgasbord of languages this nation of immigrants has brought with them over the decades as they have settled in the United States.
This sort of brings home those tolerance signs I see sprouting up in front yards across Lake County neighborhoods. The ones that say, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish and Arabic.
Guess that would include the more than 2,500 families seeking legal asylum and illegal immigration into the U.S. that have been separated at the Mexican border. Parents being split from young children was caused by the zero-tolerance immigration crackdown ordered earlier this summer by the Trump administration.
The unwise policy since has been rescinded, while nearly 100 children separated from their parents are housed in Illinois facilities, mainly in Chicago. Reuniting the families has become a logistical and legal nightmare.
While the U.S. grudgingly tries to atone for its earlier miscues, once-welcoming European nations struggle with illegal immigration issues. Fewer European Union members and other nations are offering immigrants from Africa, the Mideast and East Asia easy entry into their countries.
France, Italy and Malta refused this summer to allow a boatload of migrants to land on their shores, according to The Associated Press, which also reported Bulgaria and Hungary are taking new anti-immigration stands. The United Nations said more than 18,000 migrants reached Spanish shores near the Strait of Gibraltar so far this year.
Thousands more have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea near Greece or have drowned while making the journey in makeshift crafts. What to do with the waves of emigres worldwide has become the major global question as the 2000-teens wind down.
Perhaps those “neighborly” yard signs can work not only in this country, but among residents of those European nations who feel they’ve already taken their share of those seeking new, better and safer lives. After all, many of their forebears came here and made the United States the cultural smorgasbord it is today.
Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.
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