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Arizona Dentists Want Federal Government To Delay Translation Rules

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
The Arizona Dental Association wants the federal government to postpone new translation rules.

The Arizona Dental Association has joined forces with the American Dental Associationin hopes of putting off a new federal rule that requires translations services for patients who are not English language proficient.

Under the Affordable Care Act providers who collect Medicaid and Medicare dollars are required to provide translation services to patients with limited English language skills. 

The rule, known as Section 1557, took effect two weeks ago.

”Most likely there are very few practices that are in compliance,” said Kevin Earle, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association.

The regulation requires dentists to provide translations in the top 15 non-English languages spoken in their state. Earle said many of his group's 3,200 practicing dentists run solo or small group practices.

“This adds another layer of costs to delivering services,” he said. “Certainly we don’t want to have a situation where a dentist may choose, because of the burden of these regulations, to exit the Medicaid program. That’s an outcome that’s not good for patients, nor is it good for the dental profession.” 

Earle says they are currently researching companies that offer appropriate translations services. 

“There are technical terms that have to be used and you have to find a way to translate technical terms and understand a little bit about health care to be able to communicate effectively,” he said.

According to a list compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Spanish, Navajo, Chinese, Vietnamese and Arabic top the list of the 15 most common non-English languages spoken in Arizona.

Earle would like to see at least a six-month delay, but said so far the federal government has not responded to the industry's request.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.