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New Law in California Raises the Bar for Interpretation Services in Medical Settings

Comprehensive language services have been available to Medi-Cal patients under federal law, but now, because of a new state law, all Californians covered by commercial health plans must have the same access to interpreters. In a California Healthline Special Report by Deirdre Kennedy, language experts, researchers and state officials discussed the issue.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Lisa Diamond, researcher at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute;
  • Alicia Fernandez, associate professor of clinical medicine at UC-San Francisco;
  • Gloria Garcia-Orme, operations director for San Francisco General Hospital’s language services;
  • Anmol Mahal, past president of the California Medical Association;
  • Lynne Randolph, spokesperson for the state Department of Managed Health Care; and
  • Ben Singer, a spokesperson for Anthem BlueCross.

The California Medical Association plans seminars for the next two years to help improve cultural language competency among its member physicians.

Anmol Mahal, past president of CMA, said, “We feel that communication with our patients is very crucial to having a proper doctor-patient relationship, so physicians in general and CMA in particular are supportive of improving that communication by all means possible” (Kennedy, California Healthline, 3/6).

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