(a) Not later than January 1, 2006, the department shall develop and adopt regulations establishing standards and requirements to provide health care service plan enrollees with appropriate access to language assistance in obtaining health care services.
(b) In developing the regulations, the department shall require every health care service plan and specialized health care service plan to assess the linguistic needs of the enrollee population, excluding Medi-Cal enrollees, and to provide for translation and interpretation for medical services, as indicated. A health care service plan that participates in the Healthy Families Program may assess the Healthy Families Program enrollee population separately from the remainder of its enrollee population for purposes of subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1). A health care service plan that chooses to separate its Healthy Families Program enrollment from the remainder of its enrollee population shall treat the Healthy Families Program population separately for purposes of determining whether subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) is applicable, and shall also treat the Healthy Families Program population separately for purposes of applying the percentage and numerical thresholds in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1). The regulations shall include the following:
(1) Requirements for the translation of vital documents that include the following:
(A) A requirement that all vital documents, as defined pursuant to subparagraph (B), be translated into an indicated language, as follows:
(i) A health care service plan with an enrollment of 1,000,000 or more shall translate vital documents into the top two languages other than English as determined by the needs assessment as required by this subdivision and any additional languages when 0.75 percent or 15,000 of the enrollee population, whichever number is less, excluding Medi-Cal enrollment and treating Healthy Families Program enrollment separately indicates in the needs assessment as required by this subdivision a preference for written materials in that language.
(ii) A health care service plan with an enrollment of 300,000 or more but less than 1,000,000 shall translate vital documents into the top one language other than English as determined by the needs assessment as required by this subdivision and any additional languages when 1 percent or 6,000 of the enrollee population, whichever number is less, excluding Medi-Cal enrollment and treating Healthy Families Program enrollment separately indicates in the needs assessment as required by this subdivision a preference for written materials in that language.
(iii)A health care service plan with an enrollment of less than 300,000 shall translate vital documents into a language other than English when 3,000 or more or 5 percent of the enrollee population, whichever number is less, excluding Medi-Cal enrollment and treating Healthy Families Program enrollment separately indicates in the needs assessment as required by this subdivision a preference for written materials in that language.
(B) Specification of vital documents produced by the plan that are required to be translated. The specification of vital documents shall not exceed that of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Policy Guidance (65 Federal Register 52762 (August 30, 2000)), but shall include all of the following:
(iii)Letters containing important information regarding eligibility and participation criteria.
(iv) Notices pertaining to the denial, reduction, modification, or termination of services and benefits, and the right to file a grievance or appeal.
(v) Notices advising limited-English-proficient persons of the availability of free language assistance and other outreach materials that are provided to enrollees.
(vi) Translated documents shall not include a health care service plan’s explanation of benefits or similar claim processing information that is sent to enrollees, unless the document requires a response by the enrollee.
(C) (i)For those documents described in subparagraph (B) that are not standardized but contain enrollee specific information, health care service plans shall not be required to translate the documents into the threshold languages identified by the needs assessment as required by this subdivision, but rather shall include with the documents a written notice of the availability of interpretation services in the threshold languages identified by the needs assessment as required by this subdivision.
(ii) Upon request, the enrollee shall receive a written translation of the documents described in clause (i). The health care service plan shall have up to, but not to exceed, 21 days to comply with the enrollee’s request for a written translation. If an enrollee requests a translated document, all timeframes and deadline requirements related to the document that apply to the health care service plan and enrollees under the provisions of this chapter and under any regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter shall begin to run upon the health care service plan’s issuance of the translated document.
(iii)For grievances that require expedited plan review and response in accordance with subdivision (b) of Section 1368.01, the health care service plan may satisfy this requirement by providing notice of the availability and access to oral interpretation services.
(D) A requirement that health care service plans advise limited-English-proficient enrollees of the availability of interpreter services.
(2) Standards to ensure the quality and accuracy of the written translations and that a translated document meets the same standards required for the English language version of the document. The English language documents shall determine the rights and obligations of the parties, and the translated documents shall be admissible in evidence only if there is a dispute regarding a substantial difference in the material terms and conditions of the English language document and the translated document.
(3) Requirements for surveying the language preferences and needs assessments of health care service plan enrollees within one year of the effective date of the regulations that permit health care service plans to utilize various survey methods, including, but not limited to, the use of existing enrollment and renewal processes, subscriber newsletters, or other mailings. Health care service plans shall update the needs assessment, demographic profile, and language translation requirements every three years.
(4) Requirements for individual enrollee access to interpretation services.
(5) Standards to ensure the quality and timeliness of oral interpretation services provided by health care service plans.
(c) In developing the regulations, standards, and requirements, the department shall consider the following:
(1) Publications and standards issued by federal agencies, such as the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health Care issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health in December 2000, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) Policy Guidance (65 Federal Register 52762 (August 30, 2000)).
(2) Other cultural and linguistic requirements under state programs, such as Medi-Cal Managed Care Policy Letters, cultural and linguistic requirements imposed by the State Department of Health Services on health care service plans that contract to provide Medi-Cal managed care services, and cultural and linguistic requirements imposed by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board on health care service plans that contract to provide services in the Healthy Families Program.
(3) Standards adopted by other states pertaining to language assistance requirements for health care service plans.
(4) Standards established by California or nationally recognized accrediting, certifying, or licensing organizations and medical and health care interpreter professional associations regarding interpretation services.
(5) Publications, guidelines, reports, and recommendations issued by state agencies or advisory committees, such as the report card to the public on the comparative performance of plans and reports on cultural and linguistic services issued by the Office of Patient Advocate and the report to the Legislature from the Task Force on Culturally and Linguistically Competent Physicians and Dentists established by Section 852 of the Business and Professions Code.
(6) Examples of best practices relating to language assistance services by health care providers and health care service plans, including existing practices.
(7) Information gathered from complaints to the HMO Helpline and consumer assistance centers regarding language assistance services.
(8) The cost of compliance and the availability of translation and interpretation services and professionals.
(9) Flexibility to accommodate variations in plan networks and method of service delivery. The department shall allow for health care service plan flexibility in determining compliance with the standards for oral and written interpretation services.
(d) The department shall work to ensure that the biennial reports required by this section, and the data collected for those reports, are consistent with reports required by government-sponsored programs and do not require duplicative or conflicting data collection or reporting.
(e) The department shall seek public input from a wide range of interested parties through advisory bodies established by the director.
(f) A contract between a health care service plan and a health care provider shall require compliance with the standards developed under this section. In furtherance of this section, the contract shall require providers to cooperate with the plan by providing any information necessary to assess compliance.
(g) The department shall report biennially to the Legislature and advisory bodies established by the director regarding plan compliance with the standards, including results of compliance audits made in conjunction with other audits and reviews. The reported information shall also be included in the publication required under subparagraph (B) of paragraph (3) of subdivision (c) of Section 1368.02. The department shall also utilize the reported information to make recommendations for changes that further enhance standards pursuant to this section. The department may also delay or otherwise phase-in implementation of standards and requirements in recognition of costs and availability of translation and interpretation services and professionals.
(h) (1)Except for contracts with the State Department of Health Services Medi-Cal program, the standards developed under this section shall be considered the minimum required for compliance.
(2) The regulations shall provide that a health plan is in compliance if the plan is required to meet the same or similar standards by the Medi-Cal program, either by contract or state law, if the standards provide as much access to cultural and linguistic services as the standards established by this section for an equal or higher number of enrollees and therefore meet or exceed the standards of the regulations established pursuant to this section, and the department determines that the health care service plan is in compliance with the standards required by the Medi-Cal program. To meet this requirement, the department shall not be required to perform individual audits. The department shall, to the extent feasible, rely on audits, reports, or other oversight and enforcement methods used by the State Department of Health Services.
(3) The determination pursuant to paragraph (2) shall only apply to the enrollees covered by the Medi-Cal program standards. A health care service plan subject to paragraph (2) shall comply with the standards established by this section with regard to enrollees not covered by the Medi-Cal program.
(i) Nothing in this section shall prohibit a government purchaser from including in their contracts additional translation or interpretation requirements, to meet linguistic or cultural needs, beyond those set forth pursuant to this section.