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NAKASEC: Eliminating Health Disparities Through Stronger Enforcement of Language Access Requirements:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eliminating Health Disparities Through Stronger Enforcement of Language Access Requirements: On April 20, 2009, NAKASEC joined a panel of advocates to present community stories on the need to strengthen compliance and enforcement mechanisms of language access rights guaranteed under federal law to the Federal Interagency Working Group on Limited English Proficiency. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance are prohibited from discriminating against an individual on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically held that Title VI prohibits conduct that has a disproportionate effect on limited English proficient persons because such conduct constitutes national origin discrimination. Formed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, over 35 federal agencies are represented in the group.

Language access is particularly important to the Korean American community. 57% of Korean Americans are speak English less than very well. For Korean American over the age of 65, that figure rises precipitously to 95% according to a recent survey conducted by the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles. In fact, NAKASEC reported to the Federal Interagency Working Group that seniors receiving Medi-Cal, California's version of the federally funded Medicaid program, continue to be sent notices in English only. One senior had his benefits terminated because he did not understand that his notice required him to complete the enclosed redetermination form to maintain the benefits he was receiving.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King of the Civil Rights Divisions has made implementation of language access requirements under Title VI and its regulations an absolute priority in her department. She encouraged federal agencies, advocates, and community members to work collaboratively in ensuring meaningful access for all limited English proficient persons.

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