CULTURAL COMPETENCY: CA’s Programs Reveal Progress
A Commonwealth Fund study of California's cultural competence requirements for Medi-Cal managed care plans identified progress in improving access to culturally-sensitive health care services for low-income, non-English-speaking enrollees. The report, "Medicaid Managed Care and Cultural Diversity in California," found that in 1997, more than one-third of Medi-Cal beneficiaries served by managed care spoke a language other than English. The Medi-Cal provisions, including 24-hour access to interpreter services, translation of all written materials distributed to non-English-speaking members and assessment of the linguistic capability of plan employees and interpreters proved to effect a substantial impact on health plans' services, including their need to hire additional staff and recruit minority providers. The study also identified areas in need of improvement, stating that the "translation approval process should be simplified and standards for interpreter services established" and noting that comprehensive data are required before cultural competency programs can be adequately assessed. Underscoring the report's importance, the study notes that 25% of Americans will be members of minority groups by 2000, and that 42% of Medi-Cal beneficiaries encountered difficulties with their plans in 1997, as compared to 27% of all managed care households (Commonwealth Fund release, 3/99).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.