Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healthcare Providers Struggle with Language Support

While reading the ATA Newsbrief of the week, I came across this excerpt from Eliza Barclay's article "Speaking the Same Language" which ran in the Washington (DC) Post on April 21:

The growth of immigrant communities throughout the United States has been challenging for hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers that must negotiate lingual and cultural pitfalls. In the Washington, DC-area, there is a notable lack of language and cultural services in both large physician practices and small primary care clinics. Isabel van Isschot at La Clinica del Pueblo calls the failure to provide an interpreter "a form of discrimination." Immigrants with enough knowledge of English to get by at work may have a tougher time understanding doctors because of medical terminology. The cost of language services is a major issue for doctors and hospitals, who say the government should pay for the services. However, hospitals and physicians who accept federal funds are required to offer language services under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Some federal funding for interpreting services is accessible via Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, but only the state of California has made private insurers responsible for providing interpreting services to patients. Proponents say the issue is not a political priority. In Montgomery County, Maryland, Sonia Mora, Manager of the Latino Health Initiative in the Department of Health and Human Services, says language services have significantly improved during the past five years. Montgomery County provides professional medical interpreters to county clinics for free. "Now we're starting to see that it's going to save us money, because people are going to be healthier," Mora says.

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