Section ACA 1557: Are you in Compliance?


Section ACA 1557: Are you in Compliance?


It’s been over two years since the ACA Section 1557 guidelines were implemented and it doesn’t look like these regulations will be disappearing anytime soon. Navigating the language access law can be overwhelming and confusing, but failing to comply can be even worse. Many healthcare facilities have faced internal audits and even federal court settlements for being out of compliance over the past couple years. Understanding what’s required and how to effectively mitigate the risks could save health facilities a tremendous amount of time and money.

What is Section 1557 of the ACA?

Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age by any health program/activity that receives federal funding and includes health insurance marketplaces and all plans offered by issuers that participate in those marketplaces. This is the first federal civil rights law to prohibit sex discrimination in healthcare, which includes LGBTQ, sexual identity and transgendered individuals. This ruling also provides limited English proficient (LEP) patients the right to sue under ACA (not Title VI). Learn more about the Section 1557 regulations in this e-book, Major Changes to the ACA: How will they affect your language access program.

What are the Requirements for Interpreters?

The language access law defines a limited English proficient patient as “an individual whose primary language for communication is not English and if the individual has a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.” The law defines national origin not only as an individual’s place of origin but also his/her ancestor’s place of origin. National origin also includes the manifestations of physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.

Additionally, the regulation spells out the requirements for interpreters to be a “qualified interpreter” or “qualified translator.” A “qualified interpreter” can be defined as an individual who adheres to interpreter ethics and client confidentiality requirements, and who, via a remote interpreting service or in-person appearance, has demonstrated language proficiency and the ability to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially including specialized medical terminology.

This means an interpreter must first have gone through some qualification process. Having “above-average familiarity with speaking or understanding a language other than English does not suffice.” To understand more about the specific requirements of the ACA regulations, listen to the webinar moderated by David Hunt, FAQs on New Section 1557 Language Access Regulations.

Video Remote Interpreting

We understand the challenge of meeting the communication needs of an ever-growing, diverse patient population, particularly with changing regulations. Providing your patients and providers with immediate access to medically qualified interpreters through video remote interpreting (VRI) can be an effective option to increase compliance, improve efficiencies and, ultimately, deliver a better patient experience. Reach out to me to learn more about our interpreting services programs at

Language access and the law

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