Few Community Health Centers Receive Reimbursement for Providing Language Services, Report Indicates
While 84% of community health centers treat patients with limited English proficiency on a daily basis, only 5% receive direct reimbursement for language services from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurers, according to a report released Monday by the National Association of Community Health Centers, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The report, funded by the National Health Law Program, surveyed 260 community health centers, which estimated a gross aggregate total of $45 million annually in direct costs for language services. NACHC Senior Vice President Daniel Hawkins estimated that the total would reach $200 million if the study had accounted for indirect costs.
"Ninety-nine percent (of patients) not only prefer ... but find it absolutely necessary, to receive care in their native language," Hawkins said, adding, "Access is the main language spoken at health centers, and yet much more can and should be done." He noted that a bill (S 3101) by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) would require private caregivers treating Medicare beneficiaries to adopt a set of language standards. However, he added, "You can't just mandate it; you've got to reimburse for it" (Cooley, CQ HealthBeat, 6/16).
The report is available online (.pdf).