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.”
In this year’s budget, the state invested $40 million to expand health care coverage to undocumented children, but the fight to expand health care coverage to all Californians, regardless of immigration status, is far from over. SB 4 establishes critical infrastructure that sets the foundation for full expansion of health care coverage in the future. Download and send in a letter of support for SB 4 today!
A bill that will help Californians better understand their medication is making its way through the legislature. AB 1073, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, would increase access to translated prescription drug labels. Specifically, AB 1073 would require the California Board of Pharmacy to post on its website translated standardized directions for use in at least five languages other than English (Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese). It would also require pharmacists to provide these translated directions for their Limited English Proficient patients.
"We know from research that patients can often misunderstand the prescription medication information, and for limited English proficient patients, these misunderstandings can be much more severe and much more frustrating," says Kimberly Chen of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, a supporter of the bill.
"By ensuring that they have access to medical information, it will help reduce medical errors, and ensure that patients are complying with their prescription information. It ultimately helps meet the needs of Californians."
It is with genuine disappointment that we inform you that SB 203, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Labeling Bill, authored by Senator William Monning, and co-sponsored by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, Latino Health Access, and California Black Health Network, has failed in the Senate Health Committee with only four out of the nine Senators voting in our favor. Wednesday afternoon, Senator Ed Hernandez, Committee Chair, along with Senators Isadore Hall, Richard Roth, and Janet Nguyen abstained from voting while Senator Jim Nielsen voted against the Bill.
Senator Holly Mitchell made an impassioned, moving statement about the need for the Senate Health Committee and the Legislative body to reconcile their personal preferences with their legislative responsibility about obesity and diabetes. Kudos to Senator Mitchell for stepping up and for her support of this bill. CBHN was also very proud of our 2014 Heroes in Health Awardee, Senator Richard Pan, for his supportive public statements and prodding questions challenging the opposition. Additional thanks to Senator Lois Wolk, for her "Aye" vote, and of course, to Senator William Monning for authoring this bill.
Updating the bills we've been talking about today: SB 388 (Mitchell), SB 546 (Leno), SB 291 (Lara), and SB 26 (Hernandez) have all passed out of the Senate Health Committee!
Update 3:40 pm
SB 388, authored by Holly Mitchell and sponsored by CPEHN, would require a health insurance plan’s summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) to be translated into non-English languages consistent with California’s existing language access requirements for other vital documents and would require the Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to make available translated templates of the SBC on their websites.
Testimony from bill sponsors and supporters showed the importance of reducing language barriers in the health care system. By having access to translated SBCs, patients will have a better understanding of what benefits they receive through their health plans. The bill was heard without opposition.
SB 546, authored by Senator Mark Leno, would add transparency to large group health plans through a rate review process. The rate review would only kick in if the rate increases are higher than the average increases across all the plans being offered. CPEHN and other supporters of the bill point to skyrocketing health care costs in large group plans, particularly in union health plans, as a reason why rate review is necessary. The bill does not include rate regulation provisions, but the transparency that comes with rate review could lead to more public outcry about drastic rate increases.
You can help advance legislation to stem the growth of diabetes and promote healthy options to consumers. Diabetes is now the seventh leading cause of death in California and continues to disproportionately impact communities of color. Two legislative proposals are seeking to help make consumers aware of the health problems associated with sugar-sweetened drinks and to promote healthy alternatives. Please send in your letter of support for AB 1357 (Bloom) and SB 203 (Monning).
Letters of support must be received by this Wednesday, April 15th, so please download and send in your letter TODAY.
We need your support to ensure consumers are informed about their health insurance benefits and know what doctors and hospitals are in their networks. Urge the Senate Committee on Health to pass legislation requiring translation of a health plan's summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) and ensuring provider directories are accurate and up-to-date. Please send in your letter of support for SB 388 (Mitchell) and SB 137 (Hernandez).
SB 388 (Mitchell) requires a health insurance plan’s SBC to be translated into non-English languages consistent with California’s existing language access requirements for other vital documents and would require the California Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance to make available translated templates of the SBC on their websites. Download a sample letter of support for SB 388.
SB 137 (Hernandez) creates standards for provider directories and requires regular updates so that they include accurate information about which doctors and hospitals are in a patient's network and the languages spoken when shopping for coverage or seeking care. CPEHN is co-sponsoring this legislation with Consumers Union and Health Access. Download a sample letter of support for SB 137.
We need your support to ensure consumers are informed of their right to language assistance when accessing hospital services. Please send in your letter of support for AB 389 (Chau). Make your voice heard and urge the Assembly Committee on Health to advance this bill forward. Letters of support must be received by Wednesday, April 1st, so download and send in your letter TODAY.
For millions of Californians, adequate language assistance is essential to accessing basic health care services. More than 40% of Californians speak a language other than English at home and one in five Californians are Limited English Proficient (LEP), meaning they speak English less than very well. Prior to full implementation, projections found that nearly 40% of those newly eligible for health care subsidies in Covered California would be LEP. Failure to provide language access can lead to serious consequences, such as higher rates of hospitalizations, drug complications, and not returning for follow-ups after an emergency room visit.
AB 389 requires hospitals to post on their website their policy for providing language assistance to LEP patients and requires two state agencies, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the California Department of Public Health, to post hospital language assistance policies on their website. By law, hospitals are required to develop and submit to the state their policy for ensuring patients with language barriers receive appropriate language assistance. This bill improves access to this information and ensures consumers are informed about their right to language assistance.
CPEHN’s legislative briefing, Cultivating Health Equity, is this Thursday in Sacramento! We are very excited to bring together our founding ethnic partner organizations – the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, the California Black Health Network, the California Rural Indian Health Board, and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California – to highlight the top policy priorities for improving the health and well-being of communities of color in California this year. We are also looking forward to engaging conversations and presentations from top advocates and leaders in the fight for health equity. Here are a few highlights and speakers joining us at the Capitol this Thursday:
Multicultural Health Policy Agenda Our founding ethnic partners join us to highlight the top health policy priorities for communities of color.