Offering Access to Patients With Limited English Proficiency

Under the Affordable Care Act and accompanying federal rules, certain medical practices must take “reasonable steps” to provide meaningful access to people with limited English proficiency (LEP). A new Texas Medical Association white paper (TMA login required) provides members with information on their LEP obligations under the law and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rulemaking, including the most recent rules published in 2020.

The white paper, Accommodation of Persons With Limited English Proficiency, explains that most physicians are likely subject to the HHS LEP rules, as most physicians participate in a health program that receives federal financial assistance, such as Medicaid. Information covered in the white paper includes:

  • The four factors used under federal rules to determine whether a practice has taken reasonable steps to provide meaningful access;
  • The definitions of a “qualified interpreter” (for oral interpretation) or “qualified translator” (for translating written content) that may be required for meaningful access;
  • Restrictions the rules place on providing language services; and
  • A sample tagline to inform patients with LEP of language assistance services, and a list of the top 15 languages spoken by people in Texas with limited English proficiency. Taglines may be required for posting “in conspicuous physical locations” in certain health care settings.

The white paper notes that the “extent to which each physician or physician practice must take steps to provide access to its health programs or activities is flexible and is based on each physician’s or physician practice’s circumstances.” TMA’s Office of the General Counsel advises you to consult your own attorney for specific legal advice.

Last Updated On

October 19, 2021

Originally Published On

October 19, 2021

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