Source: American Academy of Family Physicians Getting Paid Blog
Sometimes, “getting paid” is a matter of implementing regulations in the most cost-effective manner possible to minimize expenses while not running afoul of the law. Such is the case with a federal rule that goes into effect next week.
Beginning Monday, October 17, a final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires most physician practices to post notices of nondiscrimination and taglines that alert patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) to the availability of language assistance services. This rule applies to every health program or activity that receives funding from or is administered by HHS and the health insurance marketplaces and all plans offered by issuers that participate in those marketplaces. For instance, if you receive Medicaid payments or a Meaningful Use incentive payment, this rule applies to you. However, if your practice’s only source of federal funds is through Medicare Part B, then this rule does not apply to you.
- You must post a notice of nondiscrimination in English and may combine the content of the notice with other notices required under other federal laws.
- You must post taglines in the top 15 languages in the state where your practice does business indicating the availability of language assistance. HHS has determined the top 15 languages for each state. Ideally, the language of the tagline should be in the language to which it refers; HHS has translated resources on its website.
You must post the notices in a sufficiently prominent and noticeable place in your physical office, and the rule requires you to post the top 15 language taglines in your state on all significant publications or communications. A “significant publication or communication” is one of which the patient needs to be aware and for which there would be substantial consequences if the patient did not get it (e.g. notice of a treatment plan or a termination of coverage). If the publication or communication is electronic, it must have a link to the notice of nondiscrimination and 15 taglines on bottom. If it’s paper, the publication must have the statement of nondiscrimination and taglines, unless it’s something small, like a postcard, which only needs the statement of nondiscrimination and the top two language taglines. The notice of nondiscrimination and top 15 taglines should also be at the bottom of your website.
If you have not already done so, now would be a good time to develop a plan to address LEP patient needs. Ideally, the plan should address languages frequently used in the practice beyond the top 15 languages in your state. You may also want to consider signing up with a language assistance call center to help with the translation of documents as well as telephonic or in-person interpretation when needed. For example, some states’ Medicaid programs regard medical interpreter services as a covered service, and the state contracts with a vendor to facilitate that service. Your local hospital may also have resources in this regard. Finally, you should consider having commonly used documents translated for frequently used languages.
Enforcement of the new rule will fall to the HHS Office of Civil Rights, which has indicated that it will use a flexible, context-specific analysis to determine any violations on a case-by-case basis. For additional information, check out the HHS summary and fact sheets and training materials.