A health insurance policy negotiated in Spanish but written in English.

A health insurance policy negotiated in Spanish but written in English.

Santa Ana, California, USA

Language Becoming an Issue for Health Insurers
A Spanish-speaking couple is suing Blue Cross, saying it should not have yanked a policy that it wrote in English.

By Lisa Girion, Times Staff Writer
March 20, 2006
Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

A Spanish speaking couple contract a health insurance after seeing the service advertised in Spanish. The negotiations with the insurance agent were done in Spanish, but the contract papers were pre-filled in English. After some months the husband needed heart surgery.

The insurance company cancelled the coverage retrospectively claiming that the couple did not disclose a chest pain the client experienced earlier. The clients claim that when they consulted a doctor about this pain they were told it was nothing important. Hence they did not mention it to the insurance. Besides, the contact deeds were written in English which they did not understand.

The case is before the courts.

- The couple were up to date with their insurance premiums.
- The insurance cancelled the contract retrospectively leaving the couple with a $130,000 medical bill.
- non-English speakers have fewer protection when buying health care coverage then when buying other goods and services; e.g. buying a car.

Language issues:
- Just because two parties are speaking the same language it does not follow that they understand each other. The cultural context plays an important part in how we understand people especially in practical things as negotiating.
- If contracts are agreed and written in a different language what would be legal status of these contracts if the courts only recognise English as their working language?
- If documents have to be translated into English for the courts wouldn’t this put the parties in the same situation as if the documents had been written in English in the first place?
- Whose got the most pressing moral duty: non-English speakers to learn English, or companies to speak the language of their client?

- It seems that the company did not anticipate to have very serious languages problems since they advertised in Spanish and provided Spanish speaking staff.
- Did the company enter into a bad deal?
- Are present business communication practices with clients adequate for a global market place?
- Shouldn’t health services be provided for all on the same basis that law and order are provided to all the members of society?
- Would companies be discriminating if they passed the language costs to those clients who had special language needs?

How much is a healthy society worth to the nation? How much do moral obligations cost?

No comments: