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Lost in translation: HMO enrollees with poor health have hardest time communicating with doctors
Date:2/28/2013

In the nation's most diverse state, some of the sickest Californians often have the hardest time communicating with their doctors. So say the authors of a new study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research that found that residents with limited English skills who reported the poorest health and were enrolled in commercial HMO plans were more likely to have difficulty understanding their doctors, placing this already vulnerable population at even greater risk.

The findings are significant given that, in 2009, nearly one in eight HMO enrollees in California was considered "limited English proficient" (LEP) and approximately 842,000 LEP individuals were enrolled in commercial HMOs. And while roughly a third (36.4 percent) of LEP enrollees in commercial HMOs reported being in fair or poor health, this same group accounted for nearly two-thirds (63.5 percent) of those reporting communication troubles with their doctors.

LEP individuals will make up a sizable portion as much as 36 percent of California's newly insured population after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, including those projected to be enrolled through the state's health insurance exchange, Covered California.

"The sickest people are having the hardest time talking to their doctors," said Max Hadler, a research associate at the Center for Health Policy Research and the main analyst for the study. "If a patient can't communicate, how can their doctor treat them effectively? Appropriate interpreter services and translated materials are a consumer right and key to providing high-quality care and reining in the growth in health care costs."

Approximately 1.3 million people between the ages of 18 to 64 who are enrolled in various HMO plans in California do not speak English well. Although recent regulations require commercial health plans to provide free, qualified interpretation and translation services to HMO enrollees, the study's autho
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Contact: Gwen Driscoll
gdriscoll@ucla.edu
310-794-0930
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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