• Alissa Rutkowski

Healthcare Interpreter: "I Am The Patient's Voice"

Trump Administration Proposed Rule Puts Patients' Rights at Risk


Section 1557 of Affordable Care Act currently requires language assistance services to be available in healthcare institutions. Now, with new plans to rollback these protections, limited English proficiency (LEP) patients and their quality of care are likely to suffer.


Surrounding the talk of losing health protections with proposed changes to Section 1557 are the fears of real people.


In Beatriz Navarro's case, she felt an immediate sense of worry when she immigrated to the U.S. and stepped into a healthcare facility. Being in a new country and learning a new language is challenging enough without the added barrier of navigating critical health care moments sans translation and interpretation assistance. Pregnant with her first child, Navarro was lucky to have a certified interpretation professional who valued and translated both her voiced concerns and the urgency and distress found in her nonverbals during delivery.


“I thought they wouldn’t understand,” she said through an interpreter. “I thought they would look at me differently.” 

Currently, service providers are required to provide assistance in the patient's preferred language. Now, the Trump Administration's new plans to roll back language access protections for millions of limited English proficiency (LEP) patients promise to increase barriers between doctors and patients.


When LEP patients are left to grapple with a doctor's instructions or prescription medication labels, they tend to turn to family members or a bilingual stranger, known as "ad hoc interpreters," for assistance. Not surprisingly, a recent study of healthcare providers shows how language services result in an increase in quality of care.


A projected rise in ad hoc interpreters is a danger to the quality and accuracy of care, potentially creating bias and disrespecting privacy for the patient. Ultimately, the new Section 1557 proposed changes prevent LEP patients from receiving the professional, individualized care they deserve, and by proxy, encourages the use of ad hoc interpreters.


In an increasingly multilingual society it is imperative that these rights are protected and advanced. Read the full Section 1557 text or view the National Health Law's recorded webinar to learn more.


Make your voice heard and submit your comments to the Department of Health and Human Services the by August 13th, 2019.

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