Spoken Language Healthcare Interpreter Legislation Project

Spoken Language Healthcare Interpreter Legislation Project

Legislative Report on Interpreting in Health Care Settings

The Minnesota Department of Health has published a report to the Minnesota Legislature regarding health care interpreting. It is available for download in PDF format at 2015 Legislative Report on Interpreting in Health Care Settings: Recommendations for a Tiered Registry (PDF: 3MB/114 pages).

The report details the MDH’s recommendations for a tiered, verified registry to replace the current Spoken Language Health Care Interpreter Roster. Please note that these recommendations do not change current laws. The Minnesota Legislature will review these recommendations in the coming months. They may choose to accept, reject or modify the recommendations to form a new law.

Our recommendations are a result of discussions with interpreters and other stakeholders in Minnesota, identification of best practices in medical interpreting across the nation, and an analysis of fiscal capacities within the department and appropriate fee levels for interpreters.

We have proposed these recommendations to the Legislature to better ensure that all limited English proficient (LEP) Minnesotans have access to quality medical care.

We would like to thank the more than 650 interpreters and stakeholders who have helped with this process in so many ways.

Interpreter Project Update

An update on the work the Minnesota Department of Health has been doing to recommend qualifications for spoken language health interpreters is available for download in PDF format at Update for Interpreters and Stakeholders (PDF: 494KB/5 pages). On December 19, 2014, this update was emailed to stakeholders who had participated in the engagement process and to all interpreters on the MDH Roster. 

The update includes:

  • A summary of our draft recommendations
  • How we involved interpreters and other stakeholders and asked for their input
  • The Registry Guide, explaining the recommended registry tiers
  • The Legislative Guide, explaining the costs

We welcome your feedback about the drafted recommendations. If you would like to share your thoughts, please respond to the following three questions and send your response to Hannah.Volkman@state.mn.us. We will accept responses until January 6, 2015.

  1. What details of the recommendations do you feel will improve the quality of care for limited English proficient individuals?
  2. Do you have any concerns with the drafted recommendations?
  3. What changes would you recommend to reduce those concerns?

Survey opportunity

The Minnesota Department of Health has created a survey so you can share your thoughts about the Spoken Language Health Care Interpreter Project. Go to Health Care Interpreter Survey to participate. The survey will be available until 11:55 p.m. on Friday, December 5.

Current Actions

To address the availability and quality of spoken language healthcare interpreting services provided in Minnesota, a 2014 law (HF 2150 - 168.1) provided funding for the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to develop a proposal to promote health equity and quality health outcomes through changes to laws governing spoken language healthcare interpreters.

This project will be completed in consultation with a broad range of stakeholders including (but not limited to): spoken language healthcare interpreters, organizations that employ these interpreters, organizations that pay for interpreter services, healthcare providers who use interpreters, clients who use interpreters, and community organizations serving non-English speaking populations.

MDH has emailed invitations to the stakeholder groups listed above to attend group listening sessions during October and November 2014. The invitation email and all communication will originate from a @state.mn.us email address. If you do not receive an email invitation from MDH for one of these listening sessions but would like to participate, please contact MDH at Hannah.volkman@state.mn.us as soon as possible. Informed by these consultations, MDH will be drafting legislation and creating a report, due in January 2015, to document the process and the rationale for the proposed recommendations.

The project is overseen by MDH’s Compliance and Monitoring Division, with MDH’s Refugee and International Health staff assisting with community engagement.


Federal Requirements

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires medical providers to make interpretation services available to patients with limited English proficiency (LEP). Failure to do so is considered discrimination based on national origin in violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Executive Order 13166 (2000) requires federal funding recipients to provide LEP persons with “meaningful access” to offered services and programs. As part of LEP Guidance (2003), the Department of Justice reiterated the requirement that medical providers receiving federal funds offer interpreting services to LEP patients.

Minnesota Requirements and Action to Date

In 2007, Minnesota Legislature passed the Interpreter Services Work Group Law (Chapter 147, Article 12, Section 13) requiring that the commissioner of health convene a work group to develop findings and recommendations on ensuring access to interpreter services; compliance with requirements of federal law and guidance; developing a program to ensure quality of healthcare interpreting services; and identifying funding mechanisms for interpreter services.

Based on work group findings, the Legislature passed the Interpreter Services Quality Initiative Law in 2008 (Minnesota Statutes, Section 144.058), directing MDH to establish a statewide roster of interpreters and to develop a plan for a registry. Additional requirements included consulting with the Interpreter Stakeholder Group (ISG) of the Upper Midwest Translators and Interpreters Association, developing standards for educational requirements, training requirements, demonstration of language proficiency and interpreting skills, and requiring that an interpreter agree to abide by a code of ethics and pass a criminal background check to be on the registry.

In response to the 2008 act, MDH established a voluntary statewide roster of healthcare interpreters in 2009. MDH also met with ISG and an ISG subcommittee, conducted focus groups with interpreter employers and affected constituents, and compiled a report to the legislature in 2010, which proposed a plan for a Minnesota Registry. Additionally, a law requiring that an interpreter be listed on the roster or registry to be paid with Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare funds went into effect January, 2011 (Chapter 1, Article 16, Section 13, subd. 18).

The 2010 plan for an interpreter registry system included requirements such as: educational standards, training requirements, demonstration of language proficiency and interpreting skills, agreement to abide by a code of ethics, and passing a criminal background check. However, this plan was never proposed for passage into law. In 2014, legislation which included similar requirements to the 2010 plan was proposed, but it was tabled and not put to a vote.

Updated Wednesday, February 04, 2015 at 02:08PM