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What You Need to Know About Language Access in US Health Care
February 17, 2016 - By: - In: Interpretation - Comments Off on What You Need to Know About Language Access in US Health Care

“English Only” isn’t the way to go.

Studies show that limited English proficient patients in the United States receive better and more cost-effective care when hospitals provide health care access in foreign languages. But that’s not the only reason for hospitals and health care providers to provide foreign-language services. In fact, in the United States, it’s often illegal not to.

In this post, a quick overview of the current US laws and regulations that mandate limited English proficient individuals receive adequate health care access in their own language.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, section 2000d, provides protection from discrimination based on national origin anywhere federal funding is received. The Supreme Court has determined that not providing appropriate foreign-language services is tantamount to national origin discrimination.

Executive Order 13166 of August 11, 2000: Improving Access to Services for Persons With Limited English Proficiency requires federal agencies to provide limited English proficient individuals with adequate access to their services.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons demands that all who receive federal HHS funding, including hospitals, provide adequate foreign-language access to limited English proficient individuals.

In addition to federal laws, there are many state and local laws that mandate health care access for limited English proficient individuals. Here are just two examples from New York:

The New York State Code of Rules and Regulations, Section 405.7, instructs all New York State hospitals to have a language access plan as well as a Language Access Coordinator to oversee it, furnish foreign-language interpreters to patients who need them within 20 minutes (or within 10 minutes in the emergency room) and let patients know what rights they have concerning language services.

The New York City Language Access in Pharmacies Act requires pharmacies that have four or more stores in New York City to offer translated medicine labels in the city’s seven most frequently spoken languages as well provide oral interpretation services for all languages.

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Let Responsive Translation help. If you’d like information on all the federal, state and local laws and regulations that are applicable to your particular hospital, or to receive a customized proposal for foreign-language services, please contact us at 1-212-355-4455 (dial extension 208 to speak to Ken) or

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