on Health

Richard N. Gottfried
Legislative Task Force
on New Americans

Adriano Espaillat
Legislative Task Force
on People with Disabilities

Kevin Cahill

Monday, November 24, 2003, 10:30 AM
Assembly Hearing Room, 19th Floor
250 Broadway, New York City

Subject: Interpretation and Translation in Hospitals

There are approximately 4.2 million foreign-born New Yorkers and New York ranks fourth among all states in terms of the percentage of its population that speaks a language other than English. And millions more New Yorkers are hearing or vision-impaired. Without adequate interpretation services, many of these New Yorkers face barriers to health care that can seriously damage health and health care.

Language and other barriers to communication can prevent patients from getting care, particularly primary and preventive care. Even when an individual does seek care, the use of inexperienced interpreters, such as children or other family members, can have severe health consequences including missed diagnoses, unnecessary surgeries and improper use of medication. Use of family interpreters can also create barriers to open communication. Failure to seek primary and preventive care, and the medical errors that result from faulty interpretation, have serious and expensive consequences for patients, providers and taxpayers.

Federal, State and New York City laws and regulations require health care providers to make language assistance services available to their patients with limited English proficiency ("LEP patients"). Many advocates argue that these laws and regulations are not effective and need to be modified.

A.5431-B (Espaillat); S.5161-B (Mendez) would require every hospital to provide language assistance services so that all patients have effective access to the hospital's programs and services, including but not limited to health care, billing, and making appointments. A.6614 (Sanders) would require the Department of Health to make regulations to ensure that hearing impaired patients get adequate care.

Others argue that it is primarily a resource issue, and that while hospitals try to provide adequate interpretation services, they need more money to be able to expand language assistance services. Federal matching funds are available to states that opt to provide reimbursement for these services under Medicaid and five states have already established mechanisms to obtain federal matching funds for language assistance services. A.8049-A (Gottfried) would require Medicaid to pay for interpretation services.

Oral testimony will be limited to ten minutes in duration. All testimony is under oath. In preparing the order of witness, the Committee will attempt to accommodate individual requests to speak at particular times in view of special circumstances. This request should be made on the attached reply form or communicated to Committee staff as soon as possible. Ten copies of any prepared statement should be submitted at the hearing registration table.

In order to meet the need of those who may have a disability, the New York State Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

Questions regarding this hearing may be directed to Michael Rabinowitz of the Assembly Health Committee staff at 518-455-4941.

Interpretation and Translation in Hospitals

Mail to: Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, 822 LOB, Albany, NY 12248

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