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Affordable Care Act
Does Your Clinic Comply with the Affordable Care Act’s Language Requirements?
February 24, 2016 - By: - In: Interpretation - Comments Off on Does Your Clinic Comply with the Affordable Care Act’s Language Requirements?

No matter how you feel about the Affordable Care Act, its provisions affect nearly everyone involved in the business of providing and receiving health care. This includes clinics and hospitals and the way they administer health care to patients who don’t speak English very well.

Signed into law in 2010 and slated to be fully implemented by 2020, the Affordable Care Act, also known as ACA or Obamacare, reformed several aspects of the US health care system. One of its key components was increasing general access to health care through an insurance mandate.

Here on the blog we recently discussed the legal requirements in the United States on providing access to health care. The Affordable Care Act expanded those existing requirements, including with regards to who hospitals serve and how.

Who Are Hospitals Required to Serve?

The Affordable Care Act instructs hospitals and other health care providers to, as part of providing health care, offer translation and interpreting to limited English proficient patients in counties where more than 10% of the population speaks a particular language other than English. Most US states currently have multiple counties that are affected by this rule. In many of them, Spanish is now a required language, but other communities have different needs, or will have evolving needs, as demographics change over time.

Compliance Check: Do you know the percentage of limited English proficient individuals who live within your county? Are they currently being served through access to translation and interpreting? If the answer to either of these questions is no, it’s time to get your hospital into compliance. For immediate help with this, call 1-212-355-4455 or send an email to

What Are the New Language Protections?

The Affordable Care Act’s most relevant language requirements for hospitals and other health care providers are included in sections 1331 and 1557.

As part of its call to “plain language,” Affordable Care Act Section 1331 requires health plans to disclose specific information to the public using language that is concise and readily understood, including for individuals with limited English proficiency. For many health care providers, this means making the information publicly available in multiple languages.

Affordable Care Act Section 1557 broadens existing discrimination protection, which in effect includes providing limited English proficient individuals with access to health care in a language they understand well.

Compliance Check: Is the information that you are required to make publicly available written in English as well as in other languages? Do you currently provide foreign-language translation and interpreting to patients who do not speak English very well? If the answer to either question is no, you might need to fix that sooner than you think.

To get a free assessment of your language obligations under the Affordable Care Act, call 1-212-355-4455 or send an email to

Responsive Translation is a leading provider of reliable medical translation and interpreting services to hospitals and health care providers across the country.

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