ULG's Language Services Blog

Simplifying Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits healthcare providers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. There are specific language access requirements within Section 1557 to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiencies (LEP) can properly communicate with their healthcare provider and receive quality care. So, who exactly does Section 1557 affect and how can they meet the requirements?

Who Needs to Comply?

Any healthcare program that meets one of the following criteria is required to follow Section 1557:

  • Receives federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Administered by HHS
  • Health Insurance Marketplaces

Most healthcare organizations fit within one of these categories, so Section 1557 has a vast impact on the entire healthcare industry.

What are the Requirements?

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the LEP population represents 8% of the total US population. The language assistance services required by Section 1557 aim to support these individuals by providing free, accurate, timely, and meaningful access to the LEP patient. The specific language access requirements include:

  1. Post notices of nondiscrimination and taglines. Healthcare providers must post a notice of nondiscrimination and taglines that inform patients of the language assistance services. These notices must be translated into the 15 most common languages in the area. The HHS has compiled a list of the top 15 languages in each state.
  2. Provide qualified translators and interpreters. This requirement originally stated that interpreters must be “competent”. The wording change from “competent” to “qualified” indicates that interpreters are expected to demonstrate a more advanced proficiency in the language. Additionally, a qualified interpreter must respect patient confidentiality and be formally certified.
  3. Use of high-quality video technology when using video remote interpreting (VRI) services. VRI services are required to meet the same quality standards as those set by the American Disabilities Act for ASL interpretation. The VRI services offered here at United Language Group create the power of face to face connection through high quality virtual interpretation.

How Can Healthcare Providers Meet these Requirements?

Healthcare providers that are required to follow Section 1557 should consider implementing a language access plan. Having a plan in place will prepare providers for instances when language services are needed and will ensure meaningful access to LEP patients. Developing a language access plan involves partnering with a professional language service provider, like us, in order to offer patients a wide variety of translation services in over 125 languages. To get started on implementing your language access plan, contact us today.