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Health

Bill To Expand Access To Medical Interpreters Advances

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In California, 40 percent of the population speaks a language other than English at home.

That's one of the reasons commercial health insurance plans in the state are required to provide medical interpreters for people who have limited English skills.

But there’s a shortage of interpreters available for Medi-Cal patients because the program doesn’t reimburse for the service.

A new Assembly bill would change that.

It would require the state to set up a system to test, certify and pay Medi-Cal interpreters. Under the measure, interpreters would make at least $60 an hour.

The state and federal government would finance the effort. The measure's author, Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said federal dollars available for interpreter services would offset the cost to California.

One recent survey shows 8 percent of adults on Medi-Cal had trouble understanding their doctor. Research shows language barriers can lead to bad medical outcomes.

The interpreters bill is making its way through the state Senate.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure last year.