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California Health Plans Preparing for Language Assistance Regulation

2008-08-06 07:00:00

California Health Plans Preparing for Language Assistance Regulation

  After Years of Delays, Californians With Limited English-Speaking Skills

   Will Soon Receive Translation Services, According to a New Report from


    NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 6 /EMWNews/ -- HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a

leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that

California health plans submitted proposals to the state Department of

Managed Health Care on July 1 outlining how they will implement language

assistance requirements which go into effect in January 2009. According to

the most recent California Health Plan Analysis, the regulations require

health plans to provide interpretation services for any language a member

of a commercial plan requests, and to translate vital documents into the

top spoken language among a plan's membership.

    "Although the translation efforts are consuming considerable resources

for California health plans, compliance with the regulations is made

somewhat easier, particularly for the larger plans, because similar

requirements are in place for Medi-Cal," said Chris Lewis, an analyst with

HealthLeaders-InterStudy and author of the report. "To meet these new

requirements, health plans had to survey their memberships to assess the

language needs of enrollees. However, there is some concern that health

plans are not doing enough to truly gauge the needs of the membership, as

well as notify them of their new rights."

    If a health plan has more than one million members, it must translate

materials into the top two non-English languages spoken by its members. For

plans with 300,000 to one million members, translation of materials into

only one language is required. Lastly, for those under 300,000 enrollees,

the law requires translation when 3,000 or more, or 5 percent -- whichever

is less -- of the commercial enrollee population indicates a preference for

translation into that language.

    As part of the regulation, health plans also must arrange to have the

spoken word interpreted into any language requested. How this will be

achieved is at the plan's discretion, and may include in-person

interpreters or contracting with a language call center to do phone-based


    According to the report, the law affects some 107 health plans licensed

by the Department of Managed Health Care. Initial costs associated with

compliance are estimated between $12 million and $25 million.

    The regulations were first identified in 2003 when the state passed the

most comprehensive law in the country that addressed the language needs of

commercial health plan members, and were finalized after multiple

stakeholder meetings and two public hearings. Additionally, the law, known

as Senate Bill 853, was held up for years because of a moratorium on

regulations enacted by the Gov. Schwarzenegger administration.

    About Health Plan Analysis

    Health Plan Analysis identifies key health plan trends, allowing

healthcare businesses to create comprehensive strategic plans and sales

strategies at state and local levels.

    About HealthLeaders-InterStudy

    HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a company of Decision Resources, Inc., is the

authoritative source for managed care data and analysis. For more

information, please visit

    All company, brand, or product names contained in this document may be

trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.

Elizabeth Marshall Decision Resources 781-296-2563 [email protected]

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Blake Masterson

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