At its upcoming meeting, the AMA will be asked to step up opposition to a new federal mandate that requires all doctors to provide comprehensive interpretive services for patients.
Measures to be introduced at the AMA House of Delegates meeting, which starts this weekend in Honolulu, ask that AMA lobby Congress either to repeal the rule or establish an interpreter hotline a no cost to patients or physicians, or, alternatively, to seek a "legal solution" to the problem.
The interpreter rule was issued on Aug. 8 in a final guidance by the HHS Office of Civil Rights. It says that physicians who receive federal payments must provide at their own expense a trained clinical interpreter for all patients with limited English skills, regardless of whether they are covered by Medicaid, Medicare or a private insurer.
The AMA reports that it is already on record opposing the HHS rule and is actively lobbying to change it, but the new measures seek further action.
A resolution from the Florida Medical Association specifically asks the AMA to lobby Congress to repeal interpreter requirement. And one from the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking for the creation of a federally funded national hotline for translation services at no cost to the patient or the physician.
"This well-intended but unfunded mandate forces healthcare providers, including physicians treating patients in publicly funded programs, to incur, usually at their own expense, the cost of translation services," the academy's resolution states.
Finally, the Utah Medical Association is asking, among other things, that the AMA "consider the feasibility of a legal solution to the problem" but does not explain what that would entail.
Generally, the Utah resolution reports, health plans do not cover interpretive services and bar physicians for charging the patient for such services.