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New Law Provides Better Access to Critical Health Care Information

For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Law Provides Better Access to Critical Health Care Information

SB 388 Requires the Translation of Key Health Insurance Documents into Non-English Languages

OAKLAND, CA – Today, Governor Jerry Brown strengthened access to important health insurance information for Limited English Proficient (LEP) Californians by signing Senate Bill 388 into law. The new law, authored by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and sponsored by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), requires a health insurance plan’s summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) to be translated into non-English languages spoken by a significant portion of their enrollees. The summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) outlines important information in a health insurance plan including the benefits, costs, and coverage limitations for each health plan. The Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance are also required to make translated templates of the SBC and glossaries of common insurance terms available on their websites.

“As we expand health care access in the nation’s most diverse state it is critical that Californians get the information they need in the most useful way, which means in their home language whenever possible,” Senator Mitchell said. “This law sets a new standard for the right to know in health care by going far to eliminate language as a barrier.” 

More than 40% of Californians speak a language other than English at home, and an estimated 6 to 7 million Californians (or one in five) are LEP, meaning they speak English less than very well.

Existing California law requires health plans and insurers to translate vital documents into languages other than English for their non-English speaking enrollees. The languages for which written translations are required are based on the size of each plan and the populations they serve. SB 388 makes clear that plans must translate the SBC and the glossary of common insurance terms according to California’s existing language access laws.

 “Consumers, especially LEP consumers, can now feel confident in choosing the health plan that is right for their needs. SB 388 will help consumers understand what is and what is not covered by their health insurance plan,” said Sarah de Guia, executive director at CPEHN. “Providing consumers with the tools they need to navigate the health care system and access preventive and other health care services will have lasting and positive impacts on health throughout California.”

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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.