Carrots and Sticks

Check out this post from our friends at the Empire Justice Center about some legislation we’ve been trying to push to try and get New York State Medicaid to reimburse health care providers for language assistance services.  In other words: when a Medicaid patient who is limited English proficient (“LEP,” for those of us in the biz) goes to a hospital or community health center, she should be provided with an interpreter so she can actually understand what her doctor is telling her and, reciprocally, the provider should get reimbursed through Medicaid for the cost of that interpreter.

You may be wondering, why would a consumer advocacy organization like ours spend time pushing for legislation that would put more money in health care providers’ pockets?  Simple: sometimes carrots work better than sticks.  We’ve worked closely with the sponsors of the bills to make sure that the Medicaid reimbursement is structured in an accountable way: providers will only get money if they actually provide language access services.  Also, they will only get reimbursed if they provide competent language assistance services — not if they pull someone in from the waiting room to interpret, or if they use a staff member who doesn’t have the requisite training.

Should health care providers be making these services available under the law, regardless?  Yes.  Will we be watching to enforce the law, funding or not?  Absolutely. But we’ve also dangled a carrot at the end of our stick in the hopes that, together, we can ensure equal access to high-quality health care for all.

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Filed under immigrant health, legislation

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