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New Law Better Connects Patients to Language Services in Hospitals

For Immediate Release
Monday, September 28, 2015

New Law Better Connects Patients to Language Services in Hospitals

AB 389 Requires Hospitals to Post Language Assistance Policies Online

OAKLAND, Calif. – Today, Governor Jerry Brown continued California’s commitment to language access in health care by signing Assembly Bill 389 into law. The new law, authored by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) and sponsored by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), directs a general acute hospital to post its language assistance policy for Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals online and requires hospital websites to include a notice about the availability of those services in the five most common non-English languages.

“Millions of Californians are not proficient in English, and this law will help them find culturally and linguistically appropriate health care when they need it,” Assemblymember Chau said. “Language barriers can result in serious consequences, such as higher rates of hospitalization, drug complications, and not returning for follow-ups after an emergency room visit. The action taken by the Governor will give all patients the ability to better navigate our hospital system, which will result in improved health outcomes.”

Existing law requires hospitals to annually report to the California Department of Public Health their policies for assisting patients with language needs. Currently these plans are only available in paper form and are not publicly reported. This makes it difficult to ensure that hospitals are meeting the needs of their LEP patients. AB 389 provides greater transparency by centralizing this information and directly connecting LEP patients to language assistance services on hospital websites.

“California has a long history of promoting language access in its hospitals,” said Sarah de Guia, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “We have the means to better inform consumers about their rights to language assistance. With policies and notices now available online, consumers will have greater access to information and services the law already guarantees.”

“By ensuring that every hospital has a language assistance policy in place, we are ensuring compliance and strengthening transparency procedures that will enhance hospital performance and break down barriers that can contribute to disparities in health care treatment,” concluded Assemblymember Chau. 

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The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) is a multicultural health advocacy organization working to improve the health of communities of color in California. Our mission is to promote health equity by advocating for public policies and sufficient resources to address the health needs of communities of color.