HumanIT Blog

Language Access Alert: Changes Proposed for the ACA Section 1557

July 31, 2019

Written By: By Lauren Werstler, NIC, CoreCHI, Language Service Advocacy Specialist and Tatiana Cestari, PhD, CHI, Director of Language Service Advocacy


We believe in equal access to communication and quality healthcare for all. With this in mind, we would like to provide information about The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) proposed changes to Section 1557 that would change its scope and could impact the healthcare community.

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the civil rights extension of nondiscrimination protection to persons participating in healthcare programs/activities receiving funding from HHS, programs/activities administered by HHS, and to all plans offered by issuers through Health Insurance Marketplaces.

Some of the provisions HHS is proposing to change include those regarding:

  • Taglines, notices, and language access plans
  • Compliance coordinator requirements and written grievance procedures
  • Enforcement-related provisions and changes remedies
  • The role insurance companies play in providing language access
  • Remote video interpreting service requirements, making them more closely resemble those for audio-only services

We believe that these changes may limit access to quality health services and create additional cultural and linguistic barriers for non-English speakers. In addition, healthcare providers would lose guidance on providing language access and blur the lines of what defines discrimination.

Added communication barriers increase the risk of miscommunications, leading to less effective treatment, higher readmissions rates, and less successful outcomes for all.

It is important to note that should these proposed changes become regulation, the relevant provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 will remain. Additionally, Video Remote Interpretation requirements for Deaf/Hard of Hearing persons as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act would not be affected by the proposed changes.

We strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with these proposed changes and how they could impact your organization. As part of the process to review the proposed changes, members of the public have the opportunity to share your comments and concerns with HHS.

HHS is accepting comments through August 13, 2019. Comments can be made electronically at http://www.regulations.gov by searching for the Docket ID number HHS-OCR-2019-0007. Comments including the ‘why’ and ‘how’ along with detailed information are most beneficial in making a positive impact.