Beginning October 17, most physician offices will be required to post notices alerting individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) of the availability of language assistance services in the practice. In addition to the notice, covered entities must post taglines in the top 15 languages spoken by LEP individuals in the state.
The notification requirement comes from the nondiscrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557 of the ACA) that states individuals cannot be subject to discrimination based on their race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. The final rule requires that reasonable steps be taken to provide meaningful access to each individual with LEP.
The rule covers anyone participating in:
- Any health program or activity, any part of which receives funding from HHS (such as hospitals that accept Medicare or physicians who accept Medicaid);
- Any health program that HHS itself administers;
- Health Insurance Marketplaces and issuers that participate in those Marketplaces. (1)
As stated by the Texas Medical Association, “With respect to physicians specifically, HHS estimates that the rules “would likely cover almost all licensed physicians.” (2)
HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) — the entity enforcing the new requirements — has provided the following resources to assist practices.
- Fact sheets and training materials
- Sample documents of a Notice of Nondiscrimination, Statement of Nondiscrimination and Taglines in 64 languages and in two file formats
- Frequently asked questions on the language access requirements under Section 1557
- A table displaying the top 15 languages spoken by individuals with LEP in each state
Other resources include:
- TMA article: “New rules say you must address language barriers”
- TMA white paper: “Accommodation of persons with Limited English Proficiency” (TMA log-in required)
To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws see the HHS OCR website.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Available at http://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/section-1557 . Accessed on September 19, 2016.
- Texas Medical Association Office of General Counsel. Accommodation of Persons with Limited English Proficiency. Available at https://www.texmed.org/Template.aspx?id=42204&terms=lep . Accessed on September 19, 2016. TMA log-in required.