Latest Anti-Discrimination Rules: Language Assistance for Non-English Speakers

On May 18, 2016, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published its final rules implementing new anti-discrimination rules for Non-English Speakers within provisions of the Affordable Care Act § 1557. This is the first of several alerts discussing aspects of the new rule.  The alert focuses on those provisions requiring language assistance for persons with limited English proficiency; future alerts will cover rules related to sex discrimination and persons with disabilities. The new language assistance rules build on but extend beyond HHS’s 2003 Guidance Regarding Limited English Proficient Persons.

In most cases, the ACA regulations will require covered entities that operate a health program or activity such as hospitals, clinics, medical practices, solo practitioners, nursing homes, or other healthcare entities that receives federal financial assistance under programs operated by HHS, including but not limited to Medicaid or Medicare parts A, C and D, but excluding Medicare Part B to take additional steps to comply with these new rules. Covered entities should immediately evaluate their policies and processes for interacting with individuals with limited English proficiency and, where necessary, modify them to comply with the new, heightened standards by July 18, 2016. Among other things, they will need to prepare the required notices and taglines by October 16, 2016, and arrange for appropriate and timely interpreter and, as appropriate, translator services.

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