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Language Services


Look for doctors and office staff who speak your family's language, or ask for an interpreter if you need one to talk to your doctor or your child's doctor. Certified medical interpreters are trained to translate health information correctly. They must keep your information private.

Your Rights to Get Language Services

  • All health plans must provide an interpreter when requested, either in-person or through a telephone- or video-conferencing system.
  • Most health plans, and all large plans, must provide written materials in the main languages spoken by their members. These materials can include:
    • Standard letters and notices of health plan eligibility and membership requirements
    • Notices of denial, reduction, modification, or termination of services and benefits
    • Notices of the right to file grievances and appeals
  • State law requires that hospitals have interpreters, either on site or by telephone, 24 hours a day.
  • Medi-Cal and Medicare plans must follow federal laws. These plans provide services in many languages.
  • Health plans must pay for these services. Patients should not be charged.

Ask for an Interpreter When You Need One

  • Ask for an interpreter when you see your primary care doctor or specialist.
  • Also ask for an interpreter when you get other kinds of services, such as laboratory tests, diagnostic screening, physical therapy, or counseling.

If You Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

You have the right to a sign language interpreter. This right is protected by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Making Appointments

  • If you know that you will need an interpreter, tell your doctor or the office staff as far ahead as you can.
  • Ask your doctor, health plan, and pharmacy to put your language request in your chart.
  • The “I Speak” card shows what language a person speaks. It is printed in English and in the primary language. This card can be used to tell a provider for which language an interpreter is needed. Go to the website to obtain an “I Speak” card.

If You Have a Problem

If you have a problem getting the language services you need, call your health plan. If you cannot resolve the problem with your health plan, contact the Help Center. The Help Center provides help in many languages.

More Information on Language Services

You can see a list of threshold languages by plan. Plans should assess their members’ language needs every three years.

You can read the DMHC's Report to the Legislature on language assistance. The report is produced every two years and describes how health plan comply with Language Assistance laws.

Resources

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Health care advocacy and support programs to improve the health of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders
www.apiahf.org/

California Pan-Ethnic Health Network
Advocacy for health care for people from all cultural and linguistic groups
www.cpehn.org

Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency
Lists the Coalition of Agencies serving the deaf and hard of hearing in California
1-510-343-6670
1-877-322-7288 (TTY)
www.dcara.org

Health Consumer
Assistance finding health care and information on low-cost health care, in many languages
www.healthconsumer.org (many languages)

Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Advocacy for better health care for Latinos in California
www.lchc.org

National Hispanic Prenatal Helpline
Información sobre el embarazo, parto y el cuidado de los infants Information about pregnancy, birth, and child care
1-800-504-7081 (Spanish)
www.hispanichealth.org (Spanish)

“I Speak” Card
This card can be used to tell a provider for which language an interpreter is needed
http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/civilrights/PG584.htm

Su Familia
Information and referrals in Spanish to local health clinics
1-866-783-2645 (Spanish)
www.hispanichealth.org (Spanish)