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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Language Barriers Pose a Risk for California HMO Enrollees


More than 1 million adult HMO members in California with limited English proficiency are at risk for problems accessing health care services and receiving quality treatment. This study illustrates the substantial need for language services in commercial plans, Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, and highlights the importance of recent statutory changes that will require the California Department of Managed Health Care to oversee and regulate language services in licensed HMOs. The policy brief details the percentages of HMO enrollees with limited English proficiency enrolled in commercial and public HMOs, as well as in particular commercial health plans. The brief also details the percentages of enrollees that experienced difficulty understanding their health care provider, both by commercial and public HMOs, and by individual commercial health plan. Data for the analysis in this brief came from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey.

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