The dental industry has a lot on its plate. Several studies have shown that the nation’s oral health is suffering. For example, research shows that 79% adults who drink soda have severe dental erosion, and children miss more school for dental problems than anything. But in Arizona, dentists have other things to worry about.
In hopes of delaying a federal ruling which would require translation services for patients without English language proficiency, the Arizona Dental Association has joined forces with the American Dental Association.
According to the Affordable Care Act, providers who collect Medicaid and Medicare are required to provide translation services to those unable to speak English. The rule, called Section 1557, took effect a few weeks ago.
Kevin Earle, the executive director of the Arizona Dental Association, said that “Most likely there are very few practices that are in compliance.”
Earle said that the regulations would be very hard to meet, since they requires dentists to provide translations in the top non-English languages spoken in their state, and many of the Arizona Dental Association’s 3,200 members run solo or small group practices.
“This adds another layer of costs to delivering services,” said Earle. “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.”
The Arizona Dental Association is researching companies that offer translation services, which is complicated by the technical aspect of dentistry.
“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.”
A list compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has Spanish, Navajo, Chinese, Vietnamese and Arabic in the top 15 non-English languages spoken in Arizona.
According to Earle, he would like to see at least a six-month delay in the implementation of the requirement. As of yet, the federal government has not responded to the industry request.