Federal law requires patient interpreter services

A new federal rule, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, protects individuals from discrimination in health care on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping. The rule requires providers to ensure interpreter services are available for patients who are not English proficient or who are hearing-impaired. ADA and MDA have provided resources to assist dentists in complying with Section 1557.

Resources from ADA and MDA:


Montana language interpreters

Montana sign language interpreters

Montana’s top 15 non-English languages and notice translations


Section 1557 requirements:

A dental practice is covered by Section 1557 if it receives certain kinds of government funds, such as reimbursement under Medicaid, or CHIP, or “meaningful use” payments. In addition, the rule applies to a dental practice that receives reimbursement under Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C), whether the plan reimburses the dentist or the patient.

A covered dental practices will be required to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency who are eligible to be served or likely to be encountered, and to take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with individuals with disabilities are as effective as communications with others.

Section 1557 also requires you to make reasonable changes to your policies, practices and procedures where necessary to provide equal access for individuals with disabilities unless you can demonstrate that making the changes would fundamentally alter the nature of your dental practice.

By October 16, 2016, a covered dental practice is required to post a notice of nondiscrimination and the top 15 non-English languages spoken in state indicating that language assistance services, free of charge, are available. Visit ADA.org/1557 for links to sample notices.

Notices must be posted in the dental office and on the dental practice’s website, and in significant publications and communications, including communications with individuals. In smaller publications and communications, such as postcards and tri-fold brochures, a dental practice may use a shorter form of the nondiscrimination statement and taglines in the top two non-English languages spoken in the state.

Covered practices must also provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to persons with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills where necessary to allow such persons an equal opportunity to benefit from the service in question. This requirement applies to all covered practices, regardless of their size or number of employees.

For additional information, contact Al Garver, MDA Executive Director: (800) 257-4988