Section 1557 Compliance

The ACA Section 1557 Checklist for a Busy Professional

The October 17, 2016 compliance deadline has come and gone.

If you work for a covered entity under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, being compliant with this law is a must.

The good news is that compliance doesn’t have to be difficult or costly. In reality, it will most likely be more costly in the long run if you fail to comply.

So, what exactly is Section 1557 and how do you ensure compliance?

Being a busy healthcare professional, you don’t have time to waste. To save you time, I’ve put together the following checklist on Section 1557.

1. Is my organization a covered entity?

Start off by determining if this law is applicable to you and your organization. Section 1557 extends non-discrimination protections to individuals participating in any health program or activity receiving funding from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

If you’re not a covered entity, skip the rest of this article. If you are, check this item off and continue reading!

Checklist Item

I work for a healthcare organization or a health insurance marketplace that has a health program or activity which receives funding from HHS.

2. Does my organization currently provide language access services?

How are you currently communicating with your limited-English proficient (LEP) patients?

I bet you already work with an interpreter referral agency or employ interpreters directly. But did you know that language access services also includes written translations of medical documents?

If you are not providing written and spoken language access services, find a reputable interpreter referral agency and/or a translation services provider and contract with them as soon as possible!

The last thing you want to do is have a patient’s relative or a bilingual employee do the interpreting or send a patient home with post-op instructions they don’t understand.

Checklist Item

My organization provides written translated materials and employs professional interpreters and/or contracts with interpreter referral agencies.

3. Do our patients know that language access services are available to them at no cost?

Healthcare organizations must provide LEP patients with qualified interpreters and cannot charge the patients for provision of such services.

The final rule of Section 1557 requires that covered entities post notices of nondiscrimination and taglines that alert individuals with limited English proficiency to the availability of language assistance services. You can view sample notices here.

To customize such notices, reach out to your translation services provider or NWI Global for assistance.

Checklist Item

My organization communicates to its patients about language access services being available to them at no cost.

4. What are the top 15 languages in our area?

This will depend on the state you’re located in. For example, here are the top 15 languages for Oregon and Washington as of August 2016.

Top 15 Languages in Oregon

RankLanguage
1Spanish
2Vietnamese
3Chinese
4Russian
5Korean
6Ukrainian
7Japanese
8Arabic
9Romanian
10Cambodian (Khmer)
11Cushite (Oromo & Somali)
12German
13Farsi (Persian)
14French
15Thai

Top 15 Languages in Washington

RankLanguage
1Spanish
2Chinese
3Vietnamese
4Korean
5Russian
6Tagalog
7Ukrainian
8Cambodian (Khmer)
9Japanese
10Amharic
11Cushite (Oromo & Somali)
12Arabic
13Punjabi
14German
15Laotian

For a complete listing of the top 15 languages in your area, visit this page.

Checklist Item

My organization knows the top 15 languages in our area and makes written and oral communication available in those languages.

5. Does my organization have a formal Language Access Plan?

To get your Section 1557 compliance under control, HHS recommends you develop a formal Language Access Plan.

If you don’t have a formal Language Access Plan in place, don’t worry. By providing language translation and interpreting services, you are closer to being compliant.

However, to survive an HHS audit, you may consider putting a plan in place sooner than later.

Work with your language services provider or reach out to us for assistance with your Language Access Plan.

Checklist Item

My organization has a formal Language Access Plan in place and we feel confident about it.

6. We feel confident that our organization is in compliance with Section 1557.

If you do, fantastic! If not, I recommend having your in-house compliance team or legal counsel review your processes to confirm.

If you find that you are lacking in some areas related to this law, it’s never too late to implement changes and improve your business practices.

Checklist Item

My organization had its Section 1557 compliance processes reviewed by a compliance officer and legal counsel.

Conclusion

Section 1557 compliance seems like a daunting task, and it can be if you don’t feel confident in your processes. This checklist will help you get on the right track.

Here are some additional resources to help you, but may take a while to read:

If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to ask in the comments or reach out to me directly.

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