Health Care Service Plans And Insurance Companies Required To Provide Free Translation Services
On January 1, 2009 a bill of great importance to language minorities (SB 853) took effect in California. This law requires most health care services plans in California, and health insurance companies, to provide language translation assistance to their patients who speak limited English.
The law covers Health Care Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) in the state. These organizations are regulated by the California Department of Managed Health Care.
The bill also covers health insurance plans which are regulated by the California Department of Insurance.
SB 853 requires all Health Care Services Plans, and health insurance companies, to provide oral translation to another language when requested by a patient, regardless of the primary language of the patient. These services can be provided either in person or by phone. The service is to be provided at no cost to the patient. The health care program must find the translator. The patient does not need to do this.
To see a list of the Health Care Service Plans covered by SB 853, click the following link:
If a Health Care Services Plan refuses to provide and pay for a translator, a patient should file a grievance with the plan. The patient should cite SB 853 in that grievance. If the plan still refuses, the patient may submit a complaint by calling the California Department of Mangaged Health Care at: 1 (888) 466-2219.
If a health insurance company refuses to provide and pay for a translator, a patient may file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance by calling: 1 (800) 927-4357.
Many people who speak limited English may have difficulty telling the employees of a Health Care Services Plan or health insurance company (or their doctor), that they need translation services. To help with that we have placed a series of "I Speak" cards on this web site. Each card explains, in English, that the patient speaks limited English and that translation into a particular language is needed. Then, in a different language for each card, the card says the same thing in some language other than English. This allows the patient to understand what the card is asking for.
We encourage people to click the appropriate card below, print it out, and then use it to inform their medical providers that they need translation services. (Note: As the cards are translated into more languages, we will add them to the list below.)
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