Proposed Regulations, Legislation Would Ban Use of Children as Interpreters
The Department of Managed Health Care in November will hold public hearings on draft regulations to bar children from serving as interpreters in most medical situations, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. The regulations would bar children from interpreting at private hospitals, physician offices or clinics but would not apply in emergencies.
If approved, the proposed rules, which would require private health plans to provide patients with trained adult interpreters, could be implemented by March 2006.
In addition, a bill by Assembly member Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) would bar children from translating for their parents at public hospitals and any clinic that receives public money.
According to the AP/Mercury News, using children as interpreters is a "common practice" in California, but some experts say that children's vocabularies are inadequate to interpret in medical situations and that children are not emotionally prepared for the role.
However, there is concern that if the regulations were approved, there would be a shortage of interpreters available.
The California Association of Health Plans estimates that hiring professional interpreters and having translated medical materials available could cost as much as $15 million annually.
In addition, Tom Riley, director of government relations for the California Academy of Family Physicians, said that the proposed rules could lead some physicians to stop providing services to non-English speakers (Burke, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/24).