UPDATE: APRIL 25, 2018
You made a difference!
We want to thank everyone who took the time to submit comments to the California Division of Workers' Compensation proposed Interpreter Fee Schedule earlier this month. Whether you saw the call to action from our social media push or someone else's, the interpreting community responded in a big way!
With less than 48 hours notice the number of comments submitted went from 22 pages to a grand total of 394 pages, the vast majority opposing the fee schedule.
The California Workers Compensation Interpreter Association (CWCIA) which spearheaded the campaign, sent out a note of gratitude, saying:
...All of you played an integral part by commenting, posting to your social networks, spreading the word and encouraging others to defend our profession.
...Comments were made not only by dozens of freelance interpreters in and out of California, but also agencies, association leaders, educational and training programs, attorneys, physician associations and advocates for injured workers.
...We have given the DIR/DWC a lot to chew on and hopefully this sends them back to the drawing board for a long time.
We know that your email boxes are social media feeds are stuffed to overflowing with calls to action of all kinds. We are thankful you took the time to act on this one instead of just hitting delete. It is only ever through the individual efforts of all of us, often funneled through an association's leadership, that moves our profession forward. Each of you and the CWCIA deserve special recognition for your effort. And stay tuned! We will be following this issue as it develops and will be reporting on the next steps California's DIR/DWC takes.
California interpreters need our help. And fast.
On April 4th, the California Division of Workers’ Compensation published the proposed Interpreter Fee Schedule. Forum comments are open until 5pm PST 4/13/2018.
The proposed changes to the current fee schedule are nothing short of alarming and will set a terrible precedent for interpreters inside California and around the country.
Below, we give you what you need to submit comments as quickly and efficiently as possible. You do not have to be from California to submit comments. This is an industry-wide issue and merits our response.
Please take 10 minutes in the next 24 hours and submit your comments. We all know the big heavy lift that is required to gain the recognition, respect and pay we deserve. It's not every day we can spend ten minutes and put some of our own effort into that lift. Today is one of those rare days.
This kind of pressure makes a difference. In 2016, interpreters, stakeholders and interpreting leaders carried out a similar campaign for and were successful in getting much of the worst language changed in the current fee schedule.
First, we show you how to submit. Then we list why the changes are so harmful.
How to submit your comments
1. Go to the DWC forum - Interpreter Regulations. The forum has links to the proposed regulations, already submitted comments and an email address for where to submit your comments.
Link to proposed regulations.
Link to already submitted comments.
Email where to send your comments: DWCForums@dir.ca.gov
SUGGESTION: Use one of the letters in the submitted comments as a model for your own letter.
Concerns about the proposed Interpreter Fee Schedule:
Second, here is a list of some of the primary concerns that require pushback, provided with input by the California Workers Compensation Interpreters Association (CWCIA). You may not have heard of them, but they have been one of the nation's most diligent and hardworking associations working to safeguard decent working conditions and pay for interpreters over the past decade.
The definition of a Provisional Interpreter - (when a certified interpreter is not available) monolingual medical providers and hearing officers get to decide who is qualified to interpret based on their own criteria.
Pay for provisional v. certified interpreters - Provisional interpreters get paid less than half what certified interpreters get paid. This is supposed to be an incentive for them to get certified. However, given the proposed watered down requirements to secure certified interpreters, we anticipate an even greater increase in the number of jobs going to “provisionals” who will actually have less incentive to become certified.
Insurance companies will have complete control over who gets to send the interpreter - Insurance companies will only have to try to hire a certified interpreter three times before sending in a provisional interpreter. California certified interpreters have been battling agencies and companies willing to send in non-certified interpreters, when current regulations require interpreters be certified.
Interpreters minimum charge for medical appointments will be reduced from two hours to one hour. The logistics of this change seem undoable. How will an interpreter handle it if he shows up at 9:00am but then has to wait until 9:45am to be seen? If he also has a 10:15am or 10:30am assignment nearby, now he either has to leave "early" from the appointment that ran late or arrive late to the second appointment. Interpreters will get paid less and be able to book fewer appointments.
Interpreters will have to pro-rate their services - Interpreters can charge 100% for the first appointment in a venue, then 75% for each subsequent one. No other professionals in these settings are asked to pro-rate their time based on patients seen per venue. This is in reality the same as asking for volume discounts on commodities, not paying a trained professional a fee for their service.
Multiple parties will track interpreter time with no clear reporting mechanism - doctors, lawyer and judges will all be required to track the number of appointments an interpreter takes in a given time period, which might be at an hourly or half-day rate. This is a logistical nightmare in the making and won't justify whatever savings may be gained.
As CWCIA highlights on it's website, the California Department of Workers Compensation (DWC) has responded to many of the comments made on interpreter fee schedules in the past. For example, requiring the use of certified interpreters, having a provision in place for when a certified and a non-certified interpreter show up that gives priority to the certified interpreter and requiring non-certified interpreters to state what ethical credentials they have.
As CWCIA says so powerfully:
From this current proposal, it is clear that the DWC has a limited understanding of the practical application of these regulations. This is where we come in. We are the experts in our industry and it is up to us to tell them what will not work about this proposal and why. We must offer solutions and keep in mind that all these regulations should ensure the injured worker has access to certified interpreters.
REMEMBER: Comments must be submitted by email to DWCForums@dir.ca.gov by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 13, 2018.