Non-English Speakers In California Face Affordable Care Act Challenges

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Covered California is preparing to provide Californian’s with many options for obtaining health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but it faces issues when it comes to serving the needs of patients who can’t speak English.

Assemblyman Phil Ting held a hearing in San Francisco on Wednesday to punctuate the need for bilingual health services.

The hearing was held in part to gather support for legislation to pay for interpreters to help non or limited English speakers communicate with their doctors.

Ting said Covered California has a responsibility to the 16 million Californians who aren’t proficient in English.

“If you can’t communicate to your physician, what the problem is, it’s impossible to diagnose or really treat it. So often times people are relying on family members or even young children to really do this interpretation,” Ting said.

Assemblyman Ting Concerned About Covered California’s Bi-Lingual Health Services

The assemblyman invited a panel of health experts to the workshop, including Sherry Hirota, who runs Asian Health Services in Oakland, which serves 25,000 patients each year who don’t speak English.

“When the doctor doesn’t understand what the symptoms are then it could have this cumulative factor that is really negative on their heath,” Hirota said.

Covered California is trying to print enrollment information in 13 languages, but there’s also the issue of what happens when a patient goes to a doctor or hospital and interpreters are not available.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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