Patients who are not English-proficient may not be able to clearly describe their symptoms to a provider or understand, much less follow doctor’s orders.
There are several laws and regulations in place to ensure language access for patients, but these laws need to be fully enforced or extended. It is inappropriate and dangerous to use untrained personnel or patients’ children for interpreting. No parent should have to describe sensitive issues to a doctor in front of their children and children do not have the medical vocabulary to serve as interpreters for their parents.
Today, limited-English proficient (LEP) and non-English speaking consumers have a right to trained medical interpreters and since 1991, the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees Medi-Cal, has required Medi-Cal managed care plans to provide access in the thirteen “threshold languages.”
Even with these laws on the books, Health Access continues to work with government agencies, insurers, providers, and others in the medical and advocacy community to fully enforce these regulations and translate them into everyday practice.