About 7,000 interpreters may be hired through a provision in the Affordable Care Act. If California puts up $30 million, it would be eligible to receive $270 million from the federal government. The money would go towards creating a state-wide interpreter program for Medi-Cal patients.
It’s a program Kuchneyve Ihor wishes had been available when his son needed vaccinations. Ihor speaks Russian. When he asked for the shots to be spread out over time, no one understood him. Instead his son received three vaccinations at once. Ihor explained what happened next through an interpreter.
“After that the child was sick for like, more than a month. He had a great fever. And it was really harmful for the baby.” Ihor said.
Ihor said the same thing happened again when the child got a second round of vaccinations.
State law requires hospitals to have interpreters available. But Maximus Weikel, with Interpreting for California, said many can't afford to comply. Weikel’s group is urging the state to put up its share of the money for the interpreter program. He said it would cover common languages, as well as those that are less well known in the United States.
“Some of the languages are much less represented, for example, Mien. But there would be Mien interpreters available,” he said. “This would mean that, even for the smaller language groups, the groups that are especially vulnerable, interpreters would be more readily available.”
Legislation pending in the state Senate would allow California to take advantage of the federal money.