The governor of California, Jerry Brown, vetoed Assembly Bill 1263 on October 13, which aimed at solving the prevalent medical interpreters’ shortage in a state where the health care system involves a total number of almost seven million citizens with limited English skills. Backed by the County and Municipal Employees as well as the American Federation of State, the Bill would have forced medical interpreters to go through a validating state-created process to prove they were capable enough before actually being hired to do their job. As a reward, translators would gain the possibility to engage in collective bargaining with the state.
What the Bill Proposed
There are currently around three million Medi-Cal beneficiaries who have troubles communicating with their English-speaking doctors in the state of California, but this number is expected to double after the new implementation of the Affordable Care Act, thus making the currently complex and worrying situation even worse. The legislation would have helped address the shortage of medical interpreters by allowing the state to spend $200,000, gaining access to $270 million in Affordable Care Act funds.
Why Was it Vetoed?
Brown’s reason for vetoing the Bill lies on his belief that passing it would mean adding another difficulty to the state, already greatly disturbed by the complications that the Medi-Cal program will be causing. The governor completely ignored the issue of collective bargaining and focused on the bureaucratic complications that the entire process would require. To this, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez defended the Bill by assuring the audience that, with 40 per cent of the total enrolled patients being foreign language speakers, failing to acknowledge the lack of interpreters would only lead to raising costs to the system as a consequence of misdiagnoses and lack of appropriate treatment.
What Would Have Been Fixed?
California has seen several cases of erroneous treatment and related accidents, some as a consequence of using family members or children as interpreters. Professionals argue that children are not yet able to understand many of the situations that adults are going through in hospitals and other medical facilities, and fail to convey messages properly. Medical interpreting is a very specialized and complex profession that needs years of training and practice, as well as extensive contextual and linguistic knowledge which children or other family members or friends cannot naturally develop.