Executive Order 13166, signed by President Clinton on August 11, 2000, improves quality health care access for all patients, regardless of their primary language. This executive order requires Medicare and Medicaid providers to offer limited-English-proficiency (LEP) patients with a full interpreter or translator services in their own language.
This week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) plans to offer an amendment that repeals this mandate. A look at some current problems Coburn’s amendment would make worse:
— Parents with limited English proficiency are three times more likely than parents who report speaking English “very well” to have a child in fair or poor health.
— Parents often report language barriers as the single greatest issue to garnering access to health care.
— 19 percent of Spanish-speakers report having forgone needed health treatment due to a language barrier.
At a time when the United States is more linguistically diverse than at any other time since the early 1900s, we should be working to overcome barriers that may affect an individual’s access and quality of care. Coburn’s amendment undermines the steps this country has taken to ensure access to health care.