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Equity in Education Access: Language Services for K-12 Schools

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently finalized a new ruling updating Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability by any health program receiving federal financial assistance — this is nearly 99 percent of all non-pediatric physicians and almost all hospitals in the United States.

The new rule strengthens protections against discrimination and guarantees effective language access for limited English proficient (LEP) patients and their families. The ruling will improve health equity while tackling biases prevalent in the healthcare sector.

The 2024 Final Rule reinstates provisions from the 2016 Final Rule relating to definitions for “language assistance services,” “limited English proficient individual,” “qualified interpreter,” “qualified translator,” “qualified bilingual/multilingual staff,” and adds a definition for “machine translation.” Additionally, it restores important provisions including a requirement to take sufficient steps to provide meaningful access to individuals with LEP, video remote interpreting standards, and mandatory notices to inform individuals of their rights.

Significant Updates Include:

Patients Must be Informed About Language Access Availability

Healthcare providers must ensure that individuals with LEP are aware of non-discrimination policies and the availability of access to free language assistance services. This includes posting notices prominently at their facilities and on their websites. The notices must be provided in English and at least the 15 most common languages spoken by LEP individuals in their state.

New Rules Regarding the Use of Untrained Interpreters

Healthcare providers are prohibited from using untrained interpreters like family, friends, or unqualified staff. This is to ensure accuracy and effective communication between providers and patients with LEP. If a patient would like to rely on an untrained interpreter, they must make the request privately with a professional interpreter in attendance.

Quality Standards in Telehealth/Video Remote Interpreting

Providers must provide high-quality telehealth services to all individuals to ensure effective communication. The rule prohibits the use of low-quality video remote interpreting services and unqualified interpreters. Providers must ensure high quality audio and video, reliable technology, and accessible services. This encourages the creation of a comprehensive language program by partnering with an experienced language service provider who can integrate high-grade interpretation services into telehealth platforms.

Providers Must Provide Training for Staff

Training must be provided on all policies and procedures, including how to efficiently access interpretation services. This includes onsite, video remote, and over the phone interpretation, and the technology required for utilizing these services.

Human Translators Must Be Used

If a provider chooses to use machine translation for their services the new ruling requires that a human translator review the content when accuracy is essential, text is relevant to rights, benefits, or meaningful access of a limited English proficient individual, or when the source documents or materials contain complex or technical language that can be hard to understand.

This landmark ruling is crucial to ensuring health equity and affording nondiscriminatory healthcare to everyone. Language barriers prevent individuals with LEP from receiving the same care as native English-speaking patients. Requiring providers to offer effective services will encourage partnerships with professional language service providers that carefully vet their linguists and deliver high quality solutions.

How a Partnership with LSA Can Help

Language Services Associates (LSA) has been providing language services in the healthcare sector for over 30 years. Our services help ensure compliance with Section 1557 of the ACA requirements, and we have a complete understanding of the new ruling.

We offer you:

  • Carefully vetted linguists with healthcare experience that understand the nuances of the health system and can fully interpret every interaction, assuring a complete understanding between doctors, nurses, staff, and patients.
  • A comprehensive implementation plan that encompasses thorough training on our services and technology, as well as furnishing essential materials like signs and documents. These measures are in place to ensure that your staff can fully leverage LSA’s services.
  • An extensive language program which includes top-quality Video Remote Interpretation services that can seamlessly integrate with your telehealth or EHR systems, delivering an equitable experience regardless of the patient’s language or location.
  • Translation and localization of vital documents, websites, apps, and signage in hundreds of languages to enhance the patient experience.
  • Compliance assistance with any questions or concerns regarding adherence to regulatory standards and requirements.
  • Customer service representatives and technical support available 24/7/365.

Learn more about LSA’s Healthcare language support today!   Contact our team at (800) 305-9673 ext. 55305 or fill out our contact form in seconds.


About LSA

Language Services Associates (LSA) offers a full suite of interpretation and translation solutions to help optimize the experience of limited English proficient patients and customers. Providing native language support improves the efficiency and productivity of staff, raises customer satisfaction levels, and builds trust. LSA provides a competitive differentiator across various industries including healthcare, government, finance, banking, insurance, call center, legal, sports, and many more.