4 Things We Learned from CCHI’s First-Ever Summit

Interpreters sitting around a conference table with computers discussing and questioning trends in the industry

On October 12, 2019, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) celebrated its 10th anniversary in Minneapolis by hosting its first-ever National Healthcare Interpreter Certification Summit.

CLI sent three people from our team to the one-day event: Kristin Quinlan, CEO; Doriana McGraw, director of interpreter services; and Alex Carney, sale executive. The day was packed, and they had the pleasure of listening to various speakers and discussing current challenges in healthcare with other passionate language industry professionals.

While the industry has come a long way in the last few decades, it’s apparent that more collaborative work is needed to bring quality language access services to limited English proficient (LEP) patients in the healthcare setting.

The summit was so inspirational for all of our team members that we wanted to share our top four takeaways with those who could not attend.

1. Immigration policy changes

Mara Youdelman, JD, opened with the first keynote of the day. Her presentation, “The Impact of Federal Policy on Language Access in Healthcare: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?,” was very appropriate given the current turn of events with our administration.

This year alone, there have been several alarming rollbacks to language access and healthcare policies that directly affect immigrants’ and LEP individuals’ right to access quality healthcare. 

According to Youdelman, “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing a radical change to the longstanding immigration ‘public charge’ provision, which impacts access to vital programs like Medicaid, housing assistance and an array food supplemental programs, for immigrants and their families.”

Youdelman is referring to the widening scope in the definition of “public charge.” Previously, the government did not consider use of certain public services like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and other supportive programs in public charge determinations. The new rule will now allow officials to consider an individual’s participation in these and other government-assisted programs like it when making a determination.

The majority of individuals who will be affected by this new rule are those who hold green cards and those who want to immigrate to the U.S. in the future.

This change in the definition of public charge is creating fear and confusion among immigrants, likely decreasing the number of enrollees in programs like Medicaid as a result. This will up the number of uninsured, which could lead to poor health outcomes, and negatively affect the families who need this assistance the most.

Youdelman stated that nine lawsuits have been filed challenging the rule. Federal judges have also filed five preliminary injunctions, which have temporarily stopped the rule from going into effect.

Our key takeaway: Stay informed! Things are changing quickly and it’s important to speak up and get involved. Youdelman had an important call to action asking people at the conference to get involved: “You wonder why one voice matters? It does! Your voice matters.”

Here are some websites courtesy of Mara Youdelman to help keep you informed:

2. Never stop learning

You can say these words to anyone in any profession and they would ring true. Learning is fundamental to staying informed, but it’s something we have to continually work on. Luckily, there are many options — including continuing education credits, seminars, conferences, webinars, and self-assessments — for interpreters and language industry professionals to sharpen their skills.

3. California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5)

The closely followed new bill out of the Golden State, Californian Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), aims to reclassify independent contractors as employees if certain criteria aren’t met. While the bill is targeted toward “gig economy” work, such as the likes of Uber and Lyft, it would dramatically change how the language industry functions in California and possibly the entire country. Currently, there is not an exemption in place for interpreters or translators.

A large portion of interpreters work as independent contractors; however, the interpreting industry is not a gig economy. Unlike other industries, interpreters and translators are skilled professionals who have standards of practice. They are driven by a code of ethics, much like attorneys and medical providers, who do have exemption under the law.

Our key takeaway: It’s crucial for industry stakeholders to band together and push for an exemption for interpreters and translators under AB5. If there isn’t an exemption in place, it could cause a ripple effect nationwide, meaning other states could follow California’s path, leaving the language industry, and the LEP individuals we serve, in a state of unrest.

Want to get involved? Check out the Coalition of Practicing Translators of California.

Related: California AB5: Resources for Interpreters and How You Can Help

4. The language industry needs better research

Specifically, we need better research on the cost of errors made by ad-hoc interpreters. The interpreting industry is relatively new, and more data is desperately needed. For example, what is the cost of poor language access or no language access, and what value are clients willing to put on patient safety?

Our key takeaway: We need to start thinking about healthcare interpreting as a return on investment, not as a cost of doing business. Aside from the laws requiring healthcare systems to offer language services free of charge, it’s important to remember that the individuals who need interpreting and translation assistance are typically underserved and more vulnerable populations who are just trying to take care of themselves, receive quality care, and be treated with dignity and respect.

While budgets are a huge consideration, we should start shifting our perspective and begin thinking about language services as an expense across the entire organization instead of a cost limited to one individual or group of individuals. On this scale, the expense incurred is small comparatively.

What were your takeaways from the CCHI Summit? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook. We’d love to hear them!

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