Second Phase of California Law Requiring Language Assistance Services for Health Plan Members Takes Effect
As of April 1, all of California's health insurance plans must provide members with language assistance services and translated materials at no cost, the Washington Times reports.
HMOs have had to provide interpreters and translated materials since January 1, but provisions pertaining to PPOs and other health plans took effect this month.
According to the California Department of Managed Health Care, as many as one-third of California's HMO and PPO members could qualify for language-assistance services under the law. Forty-three percent of people in California do not speak English at home, a higher percentage than many other states, according to the Census Bureau.
Recent research showed that 25% of people with limited English-language skills -- who had wanted but could not obtain language assistance -- could not understand instructions from a care provider.
Marty Martinez, policy director for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said, "In today's complex medical world, it is crucial to improve the communications between patients and doctors," adding, "California is making history through the implementation of this language access law, which will end the unnecessary distress and confusion many" people with limited English-language skills experience (Lengell, Washington Times, 4/7).