Nearly 8 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are individuals with limited English proficiency, many of whom need an interpreter or other language assistance to communicate effectively. Communication and language barriers are associated with decreased quality of care and poorer health outcomes. Individuals with limited English proficiency are less likely to have routine health visits, more likely to defer needed health care, and more likely to leave the hospital against medical advice. (CMS 2018)
Defining a Plan:
A language access plan is a document that spells out how to provide services to individuals who are non-English speaking or have limited English proficiency. Language access plans should be tailored to individual organizations, but may include similar sections, such as a needs assessment, language services offered, notices, training for staff, and evaluation.
Who should have a language access plan? Any organization serving individuals with limited English proficiency should develop a language access plan, more specifically:
- Organizations that receive federal funds, such as certain hospitals, health plans, community-based organizations, and others
- Organizations accredited by entities such as the Joint Commission or the National Committee for Quality Assurance
The Office of Civil Rights is directed by Executive Order 13166 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to all institutions who receive federal funds. Remember communication is outlined by CMS under Patient Rights (42 CFR 482.13) and in the Joint Commission Standards under Leadership and Rights (LD 03.05.11 EP4, RI 01.01.01 EP3). Language Access Plans are more than just interpreter services. These plans are comprehensive methods for communicating with all beneficiaries and patients who may attempt to access care or receive services anywhere along the continuum.
CMS: Guide to Developing a Language Access Plan
Office of Civil Rights: Language Access Assessment and Planning Tool for Federally Conducted and Federally Assisted Programs