Bill To Boost Medi-Cal Access to Medical Interpreters Advances
The Assembly has advanced a measure (AB 2325) aimed at improving Medi-Cal beneficiaries' access to interpreters at physician offices and hospitals across the state, New America Media reports. Medi-Cal is the state's Medicaid program.
The measure now heads to the state Senate Appropriations Committee (Sundaram, New America Media, 6/24).
Details of Bill
AB 2325, by former Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), is identical to a measure (AB 1263) that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed last year.
The bill would create a system, called CommuniCal, to improve access to interpreters at physician offices and hospitals. The legislation also would:
- Require the State Personnel Board to determine appropriate testing, training and certification of new Medi-Cal interpreters;
- Give such interpreters the right to join a public workers union and collectively bargain with the state; and
- Guarantee the interpreters payment of at least $60 per hour (California Healthline, 4/9).
If enacted, the state and federal government each would fund half of the CommuniCal system (New America Media, 6/24).
In his veto of last year's measure, Brown said that considering the state's expansion of Medi-Cal per the Affordable Care Act, it would not be "wise to introduce yet another complex element" (California Healthline, 4/9).
Need for More Medical Interpreters
About 40% of California residents regularly speak a language other than English.
However, there currently is a shortage of medical interpreters because they are not offered reimbursements through Medi-Cal.
According to New America Media, the need for medical interpreters is increasing as two million additional state residents gain health coverage through the ACA.
Cary Sanders, director of policy analysis at the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said much of the newly insured population has "huge language needs."
In addition, Sean Kirkpatrick, associate director of Community Health for Asian Americans in Oakland, said that patients with "stigmatized conditions," such as mental illnesses or HIV, have a greater need for medical interpreters (New America Media, 6/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.