Beyond Words - Language Blog

California Passes Medical Interpreter Law

California has set a precedent yet again in the world of interpreting by becoming the first state in the U.S. to pass a law requiring that health insurance organizations provide interpreting and translating services to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

The law “requires health, dental and specialty insurers to provide subscribers with translators (sic), at least by telephone, while visiting their doctor, pharmacist, ophthalmologist or dentist.”

Senate Bill 853 was officially signed in 2003, but insurance companies had until January 1, 2009 to comply with the bill.

Kudos to California for being at the forefront of providing language services to LEP residents. Let’s hope that other states follow suit.


  1. How nice, yet another excuse for insurance companies to use to ‘justify’ the astronomical prices they cause everyone to pay.
    What a waste.

  2. It seems to me that if insurance companies can spend millions of dollars on marketing in a bunch of different languages to reach out to/capitalize on the money of all the people in California that don’t speak English (which is a good 20% of the state), then they should play a solid part in footing the bill for ensuring that these people are receiving services equal to people who speak English.

  3. I am studying to be a state certified medical interpreter. Everyone has the right to be able to communicate to their Doctor with comfort, ease, and confidence. I have learned about cultural clarifiers, patient advocacy, and how to lower my register. When doctors speak doctor talk, its hard for anybody to understand. Imagine not speaking a lick of English and trying to make out what your being instructed to do to save your life or the life of loved ones! Imagine being diagnosed, or not being able to tell your doctor your allergic to something as simple as asprin. I paid for my tuition to get certified. I am glad that California is the frontrunner to pass this important bill.

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