One of the key sets of regulations your healthcare translation projects need to comply with is, believe it or not, is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – aka ‘Obamacare’. The ACA regulations set out requirements built to prevent Limited English Proficient (LEP) populations from being unable to access healthcare and insurance programs that are available under its umbrella. 

ACA Regulations

A few different aspects of language accommodations are covered by ACA regulations. These rules predominantly expand on previous mandates which require translation and interpretation services be available for LEP populations. 

  • Non-discrimination requirement 

Section 1557 of the ACA offers LEP populations protection from discrimination. It states that any health program or activity which receives federal financial assistance may not discriminate against individuals with Limited English Proficiency. 

  • Plain language requirement

Section 1331 of the ACA necessitates that all patient communication is given in “plain language.” This means that your written translations need to be reading-level appropriate for your audience, clear, concise, well-organized, and follow the other principles of plain language writing. 

  • Culturally and linguistically appropriate requirement 

Section 1001 of the ACA regulations affects health insurance companies and group health plans. It demands that the language used by these organizations is linguistically and culturally appropriate for the average plan enrollee. This section is similar to the plain language requirement and carries the same standard of plain language writing. 

ACA Regulations: thresholds

The threshold for language services under the ACA is similar to the thresholds set out by other healthcare regulations. If the population of LEP patients from a specific language group is more than 10% of the population in a county, then your healthcare organization must provide translation and interpretation services to that language group. 

ACA Regulations: Interpretation

There are ACA regulations that particularly address interpretation – the transformation of the spoken word among languages – as well. Section 1557 requires that federally funded healthcare organizations hire qualified interpreters rather than competent interpreters. According to this regulation, a qualified interpreter is one who:

  • Is knowledgable of, and abides by, interpreter ethics and confidentiality
  • Has proficiency in English and at least one other spoken language
  • Is able to effectively and accurately use the appropriate terminology demanded by the healthcare setting

Beyond this, the ACA also distinguishes between qualified bilingual staff and untrained bilingual staff members. A qualified bilingual staff member has:

  • Demonstrated proficiency in speaking English and at least one other language, with a knowledge of the necessary terminology required in the healthcare setting
  • Is able to effectively and accurately communicate with LEP patients in their native language(s)

Qualified interpreters and bilingual staff members are allowed to provide interpretation services to patients in healthcare settings under the ACA regulations. Those that are unqualified, or competent rather than qualified, are not allowed to provide interpretation services. 

While the ACA regulations necessitate ongoing adaptations to your organization’s translation and interpretation projects, these are easily accomplished. If you’re in compliance with other healthcare regulations, you may even find that you’re already compliant with the ACA regulations. If you want to get started on your next ACA-compliant translation project, we can help. Call us at 530-750-2040, or request a free quote today.

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