On August 4, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a proposed rule in the Federal Register related to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Enacted in 2010, the ACA expanded health care access eligibility to people previously without health insurance in the U.S. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of several protected classes.
According to the proposed rule: “For limited-English-proficiency [LEP] individuals, the lack of proficiency in English and the use of non-English languages is often tied to their national origin. The provision of free and effective language assistance services to LEP individuals is essential to ensure compliance with nondiscrimination laws.”
The new rule will reverse certain changes made during the Trump administration. For example, health care providers were not required to post notices informing patients of their language access rights. Other provisions to be restored by the proposed rule include standards for video remote interpreting and a requirement that health care entities with 15 or more employees designate an individual to coordinate compliance.
Bill Rivers, advocacy consultant for the Association of Language Companies (ALC), said that language access advocates—including representatives from the American Translators Association, ALC, and other organizations—have been working for several years to get these provisions put back in.
The proposed rule would also apply Section 1557 to Medicare Part B, which pays for many outpatient services. While Section 1557 has always applied to Medicare Part A (hospital services), Medicare Part C (managed care), and Part D (prescription drugs), language access has yet to be classified as fully reimbursable by Medicaid or Medicare. “Right now, it’s all sticks and no carrots, but if you’re denied language access you can file a complaint,” Rivers said.
Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until October 3, 2022. The National Health Law Program (NHeLP), which works to protect and advance health rights for low-income and underserved individuals and families, plans to create a comment portal and template comments. NHeLP hopes organizations will encourage members to submit feedback.
Mara Youdelman, managing attorney for NHeLP, hopes the new rule will be finalized as soon as possible after the Office for Civil Rights considers the public’s input. “Normally, a final rule can take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register,” Youdelman said. “However, as we have seen with the past two final Section 1557 regulations, court challenges may delay implementation of certain provisions.”
Read Full Article from Slator (08/11/22)
Author: Albarino, Seyma
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