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Medical Care Can Be "Lost in Translation"


Thursday, February 27, 2014   

SAN FRANCISCO - Medical care is at risk of being "lost in translation" for millions of Californians. That's why lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would increase the number of medical interpreters for the 7 million Californians who have limited English skills.

Assembly Speaker John Perez said in a state as large and diverse as California, it's vital that people seeking medical attention are able to effectively communicate.

"As a state, we have more than 200 languages spoken on a daily basis. It's clear that people who need health care are facing language barriers that place their lives and their health in jeopardy," Perez said.

AB 2325 requires the California Department of Health Care Services to establish a program to provide and reimburse for medical interpreter services to limited-English-proficient Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Perez said California can receive a 50- to 75-percent federal match for these services.

Perez added that the legislation is a smart investment in health care for Californians because the majority of the funding will come from the federal government.

"For every $1 we spend, we could draw down an additional $3 in federal money," he explained. "Other states have done this rather effectively, but no state has as great a need as California."

More than 40 percent of Californians speak a language other than English at home. Research has found that language barriers can contribute to inadequate patient evaluation and diagnosis, medical errors and unnecessary procedures and costs.

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