Who is a Qualified Interpreter Under Section 1557?


Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) spotlights the importance of language services in hospitals and healthcare, adding requirements and specifically giving Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients the rights to a qualified interpreter in order to advance healthcare equality and reduce disparities in health care.

Medical interpreters fulfill an increasing need for quality language services in healthcare. Telelanguage is a well-known leader in promoting affordable access to healthcare interpretation quality through its accreditation, education and measurement programs. It is extremely important that providers be aware of these new regulations. We’ve compiled a Language Access Checklist regarding the National Health Law Program and Affordable Healthcare Act that provides recommendations to advocates to address the needs of LEP consumers in their health insurance marketplace:


[DOWNLOAD the National Health Law Program and Affordable Healthcare Act: Language Access Checklist.]


An important change in the Department of Health and Human Resources (HRR) ruling applies to the use and standard of interpreters for LEP patients. Formerly mandating “competent” interpreters (2003), the new ruling now requires “qualified” interpreters, meaning the use of a qualified interpreter should be considered the standard in healthcare for LEP patients.


What Does Limited English Proficient (LEP) Mean?

A Limited English Proficient Individual is defined by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Office of the Secretary, HHS as “an individual whose primary language for communication is not English” and “is considered an individual with limited English proficiency if the individual has a limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.”


How Can Healthcare Providers Provide a Qualified Interpreter for LEP Patients?

For compliance with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare providers should consider healthcare and medical interpreters with the following qualifications:

1.  Interpreters Should Adhere to a Code of Ethics

A trained and qualified interpreter in healthcare must adhere to ethical standards, such as client confidentiality.

2.  Interpreters Should Have Formal Training and Testing

The change for language interpreters from “competent” to “qualified” requires having a qualification. Simply using a bilingual or multilingual person may not be considered “qualified” unless the individual has relevant training and proficiency testing to interpret.

3.  Interpreters Should Be Recognized as Professional

HHS deters providers from reliance on bilingual staff (if their stated job duties do NOT include interpreting).

Additionally, a qualified interpreter will have demonstrated proficiency in speaking and understanding both spoken English and at least one other spoken language and can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially with LEP individuals in their primary language using any necessary specialized vocabulary and phraseology.
Telelanguage has 25 years experience providing language interpretation services for the healthcare industry. Our Telelanguage Interpreter Certification Program (TICP) is a 120-hour training course combined with a 370-page training manual, exceeding the industry standard 30-hour training. In addition to TICP training, Telelanguage also provides a medical interpreter certification, requiring 120 Hours of Academic Medical Training & Healthcare Interpreting Ethics, which is well above the National Board of Medical Interpreters Requirements.


Certified medical interpreters ready to speak in 200 languages!

Contact us for special rates for section 1557 compliance.

Quality and expert interpretations for medical appointments telephonically, face to face, or via video remote!