language protection section 1557

Last week, the Trump Administration announced a rollback of language access notifications for limited-English speakers and other important civil rights protections. The regulations were included in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1557 is the nondiscrimination provision of the ACA. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities, including those that receive federal funding.

Prior to the rollback, covered entities were required to send notices and taglines with all significant communications, making it clear to recipients that interpretation and translation services are available for free upon request. These entities are no longer required to send these notices and taglines.

The administration cited the expense associated with the notices, which they called “regulatory burdens.”

Language Protections Remain in Place

It is important to note that despite this rollback, important language access protections remain in place, including Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 13166. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has indicated their commitment to enforcing anti-discrimination laws in healthcare settings.

“HHS respects the dignity of every human being, and as we have shown in our response to the pandemic, we vigorously protect and enforce the civil rights of all to the fullest extent permitted by our laws as passed by Congress,” said Roger Severino, Director of the Office for Civil Rights. “We are unwavering in our commitment to enforcing civil rights in healthcare.”

HHS has produced a fact sheet on the ruling. Additionally, the National Health Law Program did a very thorough analysis on the ruling, which includes a deeper dive into the changes impacting language access that weren’t covered in the HHS fact sheet.

Our Reaction

LanguageLine is disappointed that this action repeals and weakens important protections, including the elimination of the requirements around notices and taglines.

We remain optimistic that organizations have seen the benefits of including these important documents in their communications and will continue to do so.

New call-to-action