the language problem in medicine

Nearly 1-in-5 people, or 47 million U.S. residents age 5 and older,

spoke a language other than English at home in 2000, per the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report, Language Use and English-Speaking Ability: 2000, said 55 percent of the people who spoke a language other than English at home also reported they spoke English “very well.” Combined with those who
spoke only English at home, 92 percent of the population age 5 and over had no difficulty speaking English.

After English (215.4 million) and Spanish (28.1 million), Chinese (2 million) was the language most commonly spoken at home, eclipsing French, German and Italian over the decade of the 90s.9-in-10 people age 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home in Hialeah, Fla.

By Federal Mandate health care providers must provide interpretatioin services for patients who can’t speak English. Medicaid can reimburse for interpretation (currently $4.04 per visit), but Florida is not one of the 13 states approved.

DILEMMA: cost of interpretors, lack of interpretors, patient care mishandling


We need to first take care of the immediate need- patient care. In the long run, we need to take a harder stance. We cannot afford to provide permanent translation services for people who live our country for decades without learning English.

“The petitioner for naturalization must meet several requirements, including the ability to read and speak English. He or she must also swear to support the Constitution, and must be adjudged of good moral character.” Assuming we are enforcing this rule, then the language problem must be with illegal immigrants, right?

But how could this be? Was the US census for citizens only?

We need to seriously address the issue of not only illegal immigration, but the assimilation of the tens of millions of immigrants who are already here. It may sound harsh, but we’ve got to find a way to reach out and help educate them to speak English- and if they don’t then they can’t expect to receive services.

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