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 English could still point to their heart to indicate a “heart attack,” or could point to their arm with a grimace to indicate a broken limb. But then Oliver stumps him, asking for the handsignal to indicate, “I am allergic to penicillin.”
This is why the new regulations at the Department of Managed Health Care, and the pending ones at the Department of Insurance, are so important. And why Health Access has been doing a lot on this issue with our Video Medical Interpretation (VMI) Project.
For immigrants or visitors and others who don’t speak English fluently, it is impossible to provide quality care without communication between the doctor and patient. If the insurer is to provide meaningful coverage, it needs to include the assurance that appropriate interpretation can take place. Even a comedy show gets it.