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Trained interpreters: a necessary expense

Scenario: Why should doctors provide interpreter services, and how can they afford to?

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity by any entity receiving federal funds, directs that physicians who receive Medicare and Medicaid funds must arrange interpretation for patients with little or no proficiency in English. How far must I go in implementing this unfunded mandate?


If you’ve ever been ill while vacationing in a land whose language you did not speak, you probably don’t need to be convinced of the compassion and fundamental humanity of having foreign language interpreters for medical encounters. In the U.S., having interpretation available has been federally mandated since 2000 for anyone who receives Medicare or Medicaid funds for patient care.