Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced new agreements with Auburn Community Hospital in Auburn, New York and Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, New York, which will assist in supporting equal access to healthcare in terms of language assistance and financial aid, as both hospitals aid diverse communities. Implementing new policies will ensure that hospital services are available to all regardless of limited English proficiency or an inability to pay.
According to the 2013 Census, roughly two and a half million New Yorkers did not speak English as their primary language and have a restricted ability to read, write, or understand English. Binghamton, New York has a population of 44,562 over the age of five, 13.7% of whom speak a language other than English as their primary language and 5.4% who do not speak English “very well”. 2013 Census records also suggest that 10.1% of Binghamton’s population did not have health insurance and demonstrated that between 2012 and 2013, 33.3% of Binghamton residents lived under the federal poverty level. The 2013 Census figures for Auburn, New York demonstrated that 6.9% of its residents do not speak English as their primary language and 2.8 % speak English less than “very well.” Auburn residents who had no health insurance constituted 11.3% of the city’s population, while 20.0% were living under the federal poverty level.
A.G. Schneiderman discussed the importance of overcoming language issues especially in the medical field to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to receive medical care. Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), stated that New York’s immigrant communities are in dire need of access to health care, stressing that improved language access in medical institutions and hospitals can significantly improve the efficiency and receptiveness of these facilities. Choi also stated that the NYIC supports the Attorney General in overcoming language barriers in medical facilities.
Auburn Community Hospital and our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital have agreed to improve their existing language assistance and financial aid policies and services in accordance with the Office of Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau and Healthcare Bureau. The hospitals have agreed to the following:
*Encouraging efficient communication between medical staff, patients, and their families
*Conducting annual training for clinical and non-clinical staff on communicating with those who have limited English proficiency
*Translating important documents and forms such as Patients’ Bill of Rights, discharge papers, and financial aid documents
*Signage and informational materials in public areas advertising the availability of language assistance at no cost
*No longer using “asset tests” in determinating financial aid eligibility (stocks, bonds, savings, or property)
*Ensuring that financial aid applications and summaries are distributed to all patients before discharge, including those without insurance and without their request
*Provide the Attorney General’s office with reports on the application of its language access program
The agreements will promote effective communication between the medical staff and the diverse communities they serve.
The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc. (LASMNY) commended the Office of Attorney General for putting the agreements into action at two local hospitals with communities that have limited English proficiency and low income.