Beginning next week, non-English-speaking residents of Oregon will benefit from expanded language access measures in the state’s healthcare system.
House Bill 2359 (HB 2359) addresses a major loophole in the state’s Health Care Interpreter Program, which sets language access regulations for healthcare providers that receive reimbursements from public funding. Going into effect on July 1, the bill will require healthcare providers to work with healthcare interpreters certified by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) in their interactions with individuals who have limited English proficiency or primarily use sign language.
“The new rules will ensure that people for whom English is a second language (those with limited English proficiency) or who use sign language can access high-quality interpreting services to receive healthcare,” the OHA wrote in its announcement that the bill will go into effect next week.
Under the current program, healthcare providers may work with untrained healthcare interpreters and accountability for “failing to work with best practices in providing healthcare interpretation services” is difficult to enforce, according to HB 2359. Once the bill goes into effect, these loopholes will be addressed, making it much more difficult for hospitals and other facilities to fail to provide interpreters to patients with LEP.
Healthcare providers must select from the OHA’s registry of certified healthcare interpreters when providing language access services to LEP patients. If a patient declines and requests to work with a different interpreter of their choice, HB 2359 allows healthcare facilities to make exceptions, as well as in a handful of other, fairly limited circumstances, such as when there are no registered healthcare interpreters available.
In addition to these requirements, healthcare providers will also be required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to any of the interpreters working on-site. The bill prohibits healthcare facilities from requesting that interpreters supply their own PPE.