LANGUAGE BARRIERS: Patient Advocates to Distribute ‘I Speak’ Cards
Beginning today, southern California patient advocates will distribute wallet-size cards that local Asian Americans can present to care providers, reminding them of the new federal law that requires federally-funded facilities to provide free interpreters, the Orange County Register reports. The cards, which say, "Your attention please!" in English, also list the languages each patient speaks and offer phone numbers of interpreter services and legal counsel. Mai Chong, president of the Santa Ana-based Vietnamese Community of Southern California, said the cards will alert both patients and providers of their rights and obligations. She added, "There's not enough access, and on the other side not enough understanding that (patients) have a right to access. Many of them are not aware that it's their right." However, health providers are still determining how to pay for interpreter services because the federal law did not allocate additional funding. Elizabeth Anh-Dao Nguyen, program manager for Pacific Asian Language Services, which provides interpreters in Los Angeles and Orange counties, said that she encounters "resistance" when trying to convince doctors to hire interpreters. She added that doctors "say they're only getting 65 cents for every dollar and now they're being asked to pay for an interpreter." Trained interpreters can cost up to $100 per hour, while phone translation services charge between $2.20 and $4.50 per minute. The new guidelines also outlaw use of "unqualified interpreters," such as family members or friends. Rifka Hirsch, executive director of Cambodian Family in Santa Ana, said, "Not every hospital or public agency can afford to hire one person of every language. And in our county, we speak so many languages, there has to be a solution available, a translation service available" (Gittelsohn/Jolly, 9/21).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.