The Empower Healthcare Solutions Cultural Competency Program is a comprehensive program designed to address healthcare disparities and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare services to its members. The program is aligned with national and state standards, including the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care and the Health and Human Services Final Rule, which prohibits discrimination under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
The primary goal of the program is to continuously improve the quality of healthcare services and reduce healthcare disparities for Empower’s member population. The program aims to achieve this by improving culturally and linguistically appropriate services, ensuring access and availability of language services, establishing a culturally responsive practitioner network, and ensuring cultural and linguistic competency among health plan staff.
- Spoken Language Services
involve providing competent interpreter services to communicate with members who need to communicate in a language other than English. Empower contracts with external interpreter vendors to provide oral interpretation services for languages other than English, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, Empower ensures access to 24-hour interpreting services at no cost to the member in any language requested, including TDD/TTY service for the hearing impaired and American Sign Language (ASL).
- Access and Availability of Language Services
includes providing babel cards in various threshold languages, which accompany all written materials for members, notifying them of the availability of interpreting and translating services. Empower also contracts with external translation vendors to translate all member materials in languages requested by members, and requested materials are made available within 21 calendar days of the member’s request. Additionally, the reading ease of all written materials distributed to members is tested using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Statistics Test, which complies with federal and state health literacy standards.
- The workforce cultural and linguistic competence
component ensures that Empower staff identifies themselves by first name, title, and their affiliation with Empower when initiating or returning calls regarding UM issues. Bilingual staff members are available to assist members during and after business hours. Empower also accommodates all non-English speaking members through a telephonic interpreter service, Language Line, at the time of the member’s call.
- The Practitioner Network Cultural Responsiveness
component includes ensuring that Empower contracted providers provide interpreter and other language access services for limited English proficient (LEP) members in compliance with all applicable federal and state requirements. The network also includes multicultural and multilingual practitioners in threshold languages and cultures of the membership. Additionally, a provider search is conducted to identify providers that meet the cultural and linguistic requirements. If an appropriate provider is not available to meet the access timeliness standards, Empower arranges a Single Case Agreement (SCA) with a non-contracted provider who meets the specific language/culture requirement.
The Empower Quality department is responsible for coordinating and monitoring the CCP, which is presented annually to Empower’s Medical Quality Management Committee for approval and implementation. The program also obtains input from members and providers to ensure that it meets the needs of the population through local provider committees, focus groups, and expert panels. The CCP outlines the major initiatives that Empower will undertake in the upcoming year.
The program is structured into several components, including access and availability of language services, practitioner network cultural responsiveness, workforce cultural and linguistic competence, and quality improvement activities.
Finally, the Quality Improvement Activities component includes annual behavioral health member satisfaction surveys and data from member grievances to assess member satisfaction with Empower staff and network providers’ cultural/ethnic and special needs sensitivity. Empower also conducts quarterly training for network providers on the Cultural Competency Program. The program is measured based on utilization tracking, turnaround time, member satisfaction survey, and complaints and grievances.