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N.Y. lawmakers seek to help patients with low health literacy

NEW YORK — State lawmakers in New York have introduced legislation that would require simplifying and translating medication labels and providing oral interpretation services.

A.7342, introduced in the New York State Assembly by Democrat Richard Gottfried of New York City, and S.5000, introduced in the State Senate by Republican Kemp Hannon of Long Island, also would modify prescription forms to include a section for doctors to note that a patient has limited English-speaking and comprehension ability and indicate what language the patient speaks. Gottfried and Hannon are the respective chairmen of the Assembly Health Committee and the Senate Health Committee.

Nearly half the population of the United States has low health literacy, meaning a lack of the reading and numeracy skills necessary to understand such healthcare information as prescription drug instructions.

“If a patient can’t understand the label on medication or understand the answers to questions about it, the medication won’t be effective, and the patient can be injured or killed,” Gottfried said. “Chain and mail-order pharmacies should be required to provide translation services, just as hospitals do. And standardizing drug labels will help all of us.”

Advocacy group Make the Road New York and nonprofit civil rights legal firm New York Lawyers for the Public Interest praised the bill, saying it would improve access and adherence to prescription drugs in the state.

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