Language Access

Senate Health Committee Passes AB 248 (Health Insurance Minimum Value) Out on 6-1 Vote

Today, the Senate Health Committee heard AB 248 (R. Hernández) and passed it out on a 6-1 vote, with Senator Nielsen voting no and Senator Nguyen abstaining. Sponsored by Health Access, AB 248 would close a loophole created by federal guidance that allows insurers and health plans to sell subminimum coverage to large employers. Specifically, AB248 protects California workers by holding health insurance sold to large employers to a minimum standard in terms of value. Federal and state law already hold insurance sold to small employers and individuals to a basic standard (60% actuarial value), but insurers are free to sell large employers “junk” plans. When large employers offer such plans employees are stuck between a rock and hard place: with unmanageable […] Read More

Assembly Health Committee Hearing April 7: Several Key Health Consumer Bills Move Forward

Yesterday the California Assembly Committee on Health passed a bevy of bills, most with wide margins. Highlighted below are those sponsored or supported by Health Access California. AB248 Health Insurance: Minimum Value-Large Group Market Policies (Hernández), sponsored by Health Access California, prohibits the sale of subminimum coverage by insurers to large employers. Such “junk” plans sometimes don’t even cover doctor or hospital visits, and put workers in a double bind: leaving workers with unmanageable costs for uncovered care; and because they took up that coverage, they become ineligible for premium subsidies for more comprehensive insurance through Covered California. See our fact sheet and sample support letter. This passed without much fanfare 12-2 with 4 absent or not voting following testimony by Beth […] Read More

Capitol Weekly’s Health Care California Conference: Highlights for Advocates

Last Tuesday’s Health Care California conference gave us a chance to pause and reflect on ACA implementation efforts to date—and where we need to go as a state—before the fun begins again with the next open enrollment season in November. If there was a general sentiment across the panel presentations it was simply that California has done well to this point, having slashed the number of uninsured in half and probably slowed the growth in premium costs, also by about half; but now comes the harder part, including the work on reducing health care costs. Many suggested that if we don’t get a handle on costs, the gains of health reform could be erased, and additional agenda items could not be addressed, from tackling longstanding issues […] Read More

Why language access matters…

The Department of Public Health announced that they fined nine California hospitals for severe medical errors–some of which killed or seriously injured patients last year, as reported by Molly Hennessy-Fiske at the LA Times. The list of errors is gruesome, and is a reminder of why these are called “never events.” They aren’t “sometimes events” or “stuff happens” events, but errors where there should be systems and fail-safes in place to ensure they never happen. We need more reporting and scrutiny on these errors, and more accountability. We have supported legislation to have the state Medi-Cal program join Medicare in not paying for such care, along with the corrective actions like the fines announced today. We also need to encourage […] Read More

The right to communcate…

Bobby Caina Calvan of the Sacramento Bee had the write-up about the new regulations on language access finally getting the force of law. Millions of Californians with limited English proficiency now have the right to an interpreter from their commercial health and dental plans – made possible by a first-in-the-nation law aimed at dismantling the language barriers that get in the way of good medicine. The new regulation – implemented New Year’s Day after five years of hearings, delays and wrangling among insurance companies, regulators and consumer advocates – is widely hailed as a milestone in reducing mistakes because of miscommunication. We were happy to be part of the broad coalition in support of the original law, SB852(Escutia), and the […] Read More

The DMHC Oversight Hearing…

HEALTH ACCESS UPDATEFriday, March 28th, 2008 SENATE PANEL QUESTIONS HMO REGULATOR* Lawmakers question Department of Managed Healthcare’s oversight of health insurers* Inquiry into regulations for timely access, discount plans, rescissions, language access and mental health parity* Sen. Kuehl sees “pattern” of siding with industry against consumers* Laws passed more than five years ago still not implemented Click Here for What’s New on the Health Access WeBlog: Health Care Consumers Views; GAO Individual Market Investigation; More Debriefings on California Health Reform; A Health Reform Backlash Against San Francisco Restaurants?; Health Budget Cuts Nationally; Shooting for 60 Votes; 1,000 Posts!; Web Wonkery; McCain’s Misstep: Do We Go to the Doctor Frequently?; The Hot Hearing for the Week; Mayor Newsom Suing Sacramento Over […] Read More

For those moved to comment…

In posting about the need for medical interpretation, I would be remiss if not mentioning an upcoming action item: the Department of Insurance is accepting comments for a 3rd round of changes on its pending language access regulations. Written comments are now solicited only on the third round of changes, released July 7th. The 15-day public comment period ends on Monday, July 23rd, at 4:00pm, when written, faxed, or E-mailed comments are due. Comments and questions can be submitted to: Elena Fishman, Senior Staff Counsel California Department of Insurance 300 Capitol Mall, 17th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 492-3507 George Teekell, Senior Staff CounselCalifornia Department of Insurance 45 Fremont Street, 21st FloorSan Francisco, CA 94105(415) Health Access California […] Read More

How do you say “tetanus shot”?

Correspondent John Oliver at the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has the definitive take tonight on the need for language access in hospitals and other health care settings. The segment was directly responding to federal efforts to establish English as the “official language” of the United States, but it looked into the implications of restricting government services from using other languages. Some of the examples was whether the government would be allowed to translate “DANGER” signs and voting pamphlets. In interviewing an anti-immigration group representative who says that “when it comes to the basic diagnosis, good doctors and good hospitals can do so without any language whatsoever,” John Oliver plays along with him, agreeing that someone who doesn’t speak […] Read More

Without a translator, a doc might as well be a vet…

Earlier today, my Health Access colleagues Elizabeth Abbott and Bruce Occena attended a press conference at UCDavis Medical Center in Sacramento, to spotlight the new Department of Managed Health Care regulations on cultural and linguistic access to health care. It’s hard to overstate the importance of these regulations, which implement a bill by Sen. Escutia a few years ago. With a state as diverse as California, and with many people who don’t speak English well or at all, you can’t have access to health care with language access. Health care is all about that doctor-patient communication, and you can’t have communcation with translation. Working with groups like the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network and many others, we have been working for […] Read More