About 80% of hospitals surveyed said they encounter patients with limited English proficiency, but only 3% of survey participants received direct reimbursement for language services, mostly through Medicaid. The survey of more than 800 hospitals was conducted by the National Health Law Program and the Health Research & Educational Trust. Some 82% of the hospitals said staff interpreters were their most frequently used language resources. Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese were the most common languages encountered, other than English. About 52 million Americans, or 19.4%, speak a language other than English at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Meanwhile, a separate report on financing language services in healthcare suggested, as a basis for discussions, a flexible system for Medicare coverage of hospital-based language services. The report also said grants could finance the training of interpreters and multilingual clinicians and the federal government could contract with companies for telephone-based interpretation. Read the reports. -- by Jessica Zigmond