From the Iowa Medical Society:
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued final, far-reaching regulations, which take effect October 17, 2016, requiring affected entities to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency. With the exception of practices that only accept Medicare Part B and receive no other HHS funds either directly or indirectly, these regulations apply to nearly all medical providers. Refusal to comply can result in significant penalties, including a prohibition on participation in government-funded healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and the potential for civil litigation.
The regulations require practices to be prepared to offer language assistance services in the 15 most commonly-spoken languages in that state and to notify patients that these services are available. While the rules mandate that affected entities take reasonable steps to ensure access for all 15 of these languages, entities are given flexibility as to what constitutes reasonable steps for a specific language, based upon the demographics of their likely patient population. This week, IMS joined the AMA and state medical societies from across the country on a call with the Director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights to seek further clarification on how individual practices can comply with these new regulations.
IMS developed a fact sheet that details the components of these new regulations. For additional information on this issue, please contact Kate Strickler, JD, LLM, General Counsel with the IMS Center for Physician Advocacy.
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