Language Barriers Could Affect Care
About 10% of adults enrolled in HMOs in California have limited English proficiency, which could affect the quality of health care they receive, according to a study released last week by the University of California-Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The study analyzed HMO data from 2003 on more than one million California residents who said they were not able to speak English well or at all. According to the study:
- About 400,000 patients said they had problems understanding their doctors because of language barriers;
- The majority of HMO enrollees with limited English skills were enrolled in private health plans rather than Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, which tend to offer more language services;
- Kaiser Permanente had the largest population for limited-English speakers with 308,000 enrollees, followed by Blue Cross of California with 117,000 and Health Net with 55,000; and
- Languages most often spoken by interpreters at HMOs were Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese.
Gerald Kominski -- lead author of the study and associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research -- said the study highlights the need for HMO interpreter services.
The Department of Managed Health Care is developing regulations to require that all state-licensed HMOs provide translation services (Chung, Los Angeles Times, 5/13).
An abstract of the study is available online. 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.