Is a Medical Practice Required to Provide an Interpreter to a Hearing-Impaired Patient?


A medical practice is required to provide an interpreter to a hearing-impaired patent only if effective communication is not possible without the interpreter. 

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulates the relationship between a health care provider and its disabled patients.  A hearing-impaired patient does not have the right to demand an interpreter.  The ADA only requires that the health care provider provide an effective means of communication for patients who are hearing impaired.  A health care provider must provide auxiliary aids and services (such as an interpreter) when they are necessary to ensure effective communication with the patient. 

In a healthcare setting, exchanging written notes will likely be effective communication in situations where there is little call for interactive communication, such as providing insurance information.  For more complicated and interactive communications, such as a patient’s discussion of symptoms or a physician’s presentation of a diagnosis and treatment options, it may be necessary to provide an interpreter.  

In addition to the requirements of the ADA, a Medicare/Medicaid provider agrees not to discriminate against a patient for reasons which include disability.  For this reason, a Medicare /Medicaid provider cannot turn away a hearing-impaired patient, regardless of whether the patient is covered by Ohio Medicare or Medicaid unless the provider is closed to any new patients.  

The Department of Health and Human Services has taken the position that Medicare/Medicaid providers must provide auxiliary aids (such as an interpreter) to hearing impaired patients if effective communication is not otherwise possible, even if the cost of the providing the interpreter exceeds the reimbursement the provider will receive for the visit. 

For more information contact Orly. 

This entry was posted in Articles.
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    Orly R. Rumberg

    Orly Rumberg's health care law practice provides essential support to health care providers including physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, health systems, and long-term care clients with respect to corporate and regulatory aspects of health care delivery.

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