State Still Seeking Vendor For Medical Interpretation Study Nearly Two Years Later
A state agency is searching for a company to evaluate medical interpretation services for Medi-Cal patients nearly two years after the Legislature approved the study. San Diego's immigrant communities, including in City Heights, have complained the current process is inadequate.
The Department of Health Care Services requested proposals from potential vendors back in April, but spokesman Anthony Cava said the agency received no submissions. He said the department again posted the proposal request Monday after seeking input from stakeholders in June.
Don Schinske, executive director of the California Healthcare Interpreting Association, said the study is necessary because medical interpretation is required by federal law, but there isn't a universal process to provide it.
"Without any kind of existing state standard overall as to how this should be done, how it should be paid for, what quality level we should interpret to, health systems and facilities have been kind of left to their own devices," Schinske said.
Patients with limited English proficiency who need but don’t receive proper medical interpretation may experience higher rates of hospitalization and other negative side effects, according to multiple research articles, including a report published by the peer-reviewed Medical Care Research and Review.
The law, introduced in 2015 by then-Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, mandates an assessment of education and licensing requirements for medical interpreters and a review of other interpretation processes in other states. The report should also include recommendations to improve services and identify possible pilot programs.
Department of Health Care Services' Cava said the agency aims to select a vendor by January and receive the results of the study in the fall.