Oral, Linguistic, and Culturally Competent Services

Guides for Managed Care Plans

To address shifting demographic trends in health care, two guides offer approaches to defining cultural needs in managed care and developing appropriate services for them. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) commissioned both guides, which were developed by a contractor of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Download summaries of both guides below; PDF files of the full guides may be downloaded from the CMS Web site. Print versions of Providing Oral Linguistic Services and its appendices (AHRQ Publications No. 03-R201 and No. 04-RG002 respectively) and Planning Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services and its appendices (AHRQ Publications No. 03-R202 and No. 04-RG001 respectively) can be ordered from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse. Select for Ordering Instructions.

Disparities and Improvement of Cultural and Linguistic Competence

In recent decades, there has been increasing recognition of the prevalence of racial and ethnic disparities in health care delivery and outcomes in the United States. Culturally and linguistically diverse groups and individuals of limited English proficiency (LEP) typically experience less adequate access to care, lower quality of care, and poorer health status and outcomes.

The Institute of Medicine's recent report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, states that: "Racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive a lower quality of health care than non-minorities, even when access-related factors, such as patient's insurance status and income, are controlled."

The recent Commonwealth Fund report, Diverse Communities, Common Concerns: Assessing Health Care for Minority Americans, provides similar insights. Policymakers, Federal health care agencies, civil rights/advocacy groups, researchers, and health care payers and administrators, among others, represent key stakeholders with an interest in understanding the reasons for such disparities and designing methods to reduce or eliminate them. Research suggests a probable link between these disparities and the need for improved cultural and linguistic competence in the provision of health care services. It is difficult to reduce health care disparities without first improving the cultural and linguistic competence of the health care services provided. (Select for definitions of cultural and linguistic competence.)

2003 CMS Project for M+COs

Each year, CMS identifies a topic for a national quality assessment and performance improvement (QAPI) project that Medicare+Choice Organizations (M+COs) must conduct to comply with program requirements. In 2003, M+COs have a choice of conducting a QAPI project that addresses either clinical health care disparities or provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS). M+COs may seek assistance in developing and conducting projects that focus on clinical health care disparities from their State Quality Improvement Organizations.

To help M+COs conduct projects that address CLAS, CMS arranged for a contractor from AHRQ's Integrated Delivery System Research Network to develop two guides for managed care plans. Select to access summaries of each guide:

Page last reviewed December 2012
Internet Citation: Oral, Linguistic, and Culturally Competent Services: Guides for Managed Care Plans. December 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/systems/primary-care/cultural-competence-mco/index.html