During the week of December 6, organizations throughout the country hung banners with the message “Language = Life: Language in Health Care is a Human Right.” They sent a clear message to the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services that language access is right, not a privilege.
Almost nine percent of people in the U.S. are of limited English proficiency. To understand and navigate their insurance program – and get the health care they need – they need access to competent interpretation and translation. Access to such language services is a matter of civil rights.
In dropping the banners, organizations emphasized the importance of the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) standards developed by the Office of Minority Health. The CLAS standards are critical to making sure that everyone in our country gets the health care they need. But these standards aren’t being implemented and enforced as they should be. And so far the health reform rules being issued by the federal government fall far short of the important standards and policies we already have.
The Alliance for a Just Society and its partners believe that:
- The federal government should issue regulations that make it clear that the CLAS standards are mandatory for all health care providers that receive federal funds.
- The Department of Health and Human Services and the Deprtment of Justice should vigorously enforce rules and standards related to language access.
- The CLAS standards should be incorporated into all regulations and policies related to health reform.
- The federal government should recognize health care language services as a health care for calculating medical loss ratios.
Everyone eligible for insurance in this country must have a real, meaningful opportunity to enroll and use the benefits offered by their plan.