State law requires health plans to provide language assistance services at no cost to their members.
Plans must provide verbal interpretation services at all points of contact within the health plan and
medical group/IPA for any language the member needs. WHA contracts with a language services vendor to
provide interpretation services via phone for members who call or are in the office. It is the policy
of the Plan to use phone interpretation services whenever possible. Requests for in-person interpreters
should be forwarded to WHA's Member Services department. Such requests will be handled on a
All standardized and enrollee-specific written materials falling under the category of
"vital documents" must be translated and made available in the Plan's threshold language (Spanish).
Vital documents include:
- Consent forms;
- Letters containing eligibility information and participation criteria;
- Prior authorization notices;
- Notices about the availability of free language assistance and how to access it;
- Explanation of benefits or other claim processing information if the document requires a response from the member.
Non-standard letters that contain vital enrollee-specific information that are sent to WHA members in English must include a notice informing the member of the availability of language assistance to understand the letter.
Providers have the following responsibilities for language assistance:
- Member Informing/Signage. Providers must inform members of the availability of language assistance services. This may be accomplished by posting a multilingual sign in areas likely to be seen by members.
- Use of appropriate interpreters. Providers must not require or suggest that Limited English Proficient (LEP) members provide their own interpreters or use family members or friends as interpreters. If a member insists upon using the family or friend as an interpreter after being informed of the availability of language assistance services, the provider should document this choice in a prominent place in the member's medical record.
- Adequate accommodation. Provider offices should be equipped to facilitate the use of interpretive services. Examples include additional phones for three-way calling, dual handset phones or speaker phones.
- Confidentiality. Providers must take steps to maintain patient confidentiality when using an interpreter. This includes private areas for three-way calling or for conference calls using a speaker phone.
- Updating member records. Providers should ascertain a member's need for language assistance at the time the appointment is made or when the member appears for services, and document this information in the member record.
- After-hours linguistic access: Providers are encouraged to accommodate LEP members by having multilingual messages on answering machines and training their answering services and on-call personnel on how to access interpreter services after hours.
- Provider directory updates: Providers must notify WHA of changes in the language capabilities of medical staff at their offices so that this information is up-to-date on the WHA website and in the printed provider directory.
For questions regarding the language assistance program should be directed to WHA's Compliance department at (916) 614-6002.