In a letter dated May 4, 2017, eleven deaf and hard of hearing advocacy organizations from across the State asked the California State Senate to amend SB-562 to include insurance coverage for communication access in all health care settings for deaf, late-deafened, hard of hearing and deaf-blind patients. Under SB-562, known as The Healthy California Act, California would be the first state to establish a single payer insurance plan.
Deaf and hard of hearing Californians require communication access to receive informed and appropriate medical care. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public and private medical providers to ensure effective communication access for their deaf and hard of hearing patients. This communication access includes providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services such as qualified interpreters and captioning. However, providers who offer communication access are the exception rather than the rule.
Some medical offices have policies to provide interpreting or captioning services, nevertheless, their staff are woefully unaware of such policies and refuse to call for services. Others profess ignorance of the law and the process for obtaining communication access services. The lack of effective communication in medical care increases the risk of medication errors, wrong procedures, avoidable readmissions and medical malpractice.
Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) ages 18 and over are deaf or hard of hearing. Youth between the ages of 12-18 need communication access at their healthcare appointments as some are not comfortable with their parents present. All of these deaf and hard of hearing individuals require interpreters, captioning services, or auxiliary communication access services to receive appropriate medical care.
Enforcement of the ADA’s communication requirements is difficult and almost non-existent. Most people are not interested in filing a lawsuit against their doctor or hospital; they just want to be able to communicate effectively with their doctor and participate in their own medical care.
The Healthy California Act offers a unique opportunity to enable deaf and hard of hearing patients to take control of their treatment if the law is extended to require that insurance cover communication access.
These organizations from across the State signed on to the letter asking the State Senate to include communication access as part of SB-562:
Association of Late-Deafened Adults
Bay Area Asian Deaf Association
Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates
Bay Epicenter of Advocacy for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
California Association of the Deaf
California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf–
— Deaf Community Services of San Diego, Inc.
— Deaf Counseling, Advocacy & Referral Agency
— Deaf & Hard of Hearing Service Center, Inc.
— Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, Inc.
— NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing
Northern California Association of DeafBlind
We have asked for an in-person meeting with Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and co-lead author of the bill, to further discuss the requested amendment for universal insurance coverage of communication access.
For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.