Medicaid and CHIP Reimbursement Models for Language Services: 2024 Update

Executive Summary

Access to language services, such as oral interpreting or written translation services, is critical to enhancing patients’ understanding of and adherence to medical treatments, improving health outcomes, improving quality of care, reducing health care costs, and promoting health equity. Federal law—Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and Section 504 of the Rehab Act of 1973 as well as the 2003 Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “LEP” guidance—requires that all Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) services providers, including State Medicaid agencies, who receive federal funds from HHS, make language services available to those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) to ensure meaningful access to needed health care services.

While State Medicaid agencies have the obligation to ensure meaningful access, they are not required to reimburse Medicaid providers for the cost of language services. However, states have the option of claiming Medicaid and CHIP reimbursement, either as an administrative expense or optional covered service, to reimburse the agencies and Medicaid providers for their cost to provide language services.

This issue brief covers 18 states that are known to directly reimburse providers for language services to promote access to language services.

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