Advocates for individuals with limited English skills are criticizing a proposal by Governor Rell to cut funding for medical interpreters. The program was expected to begin later this year.
Governor Rell's proposal to eliminate money for medical interpreters would save the state $11.5 million dollars over the next two years. But advocates point out that the service is needed to help an underserved population access quality healthcare. Nadesha Mehoba, is the Acting President of the Medical Interpreting Association of Connecticut.
"Interpreters are the lifeline to patients that do not speak English. You know lack of clear communication between the patient and providers increases the risk for medical errors."
This isn't the first time medical interpretation funding has been in jeopardy. Rell had proposed cutting the program by one quarter in 2008 due to budget constraints. But the State Legislature restored the funding for the service to be covered under Medicaid.
President of the Hispanic Health Council, Jeanette DeJesus says the program could help an estimated 22,000 Medicaid recipients who are not proficient in English. She says other states including Washington have adopted similar programs to reimburse providers for using medical interpreters.
"It's a pretty simple proposition. You know you improve the standard of care in a particular area, you reduce visits with doctors, and you reduce costs and improve the quality of care. "
Spokesman for the Governor's Budget office, Jeff Beckham says Rell proposed cutting the program because it's new and the state can't in good conscience pay for it while it's already struggling to fund existing services. He adds, medical providers are expected to provide the service for patients who need it using programs like Language Line, which connects patients and doctors with medical interpreters over the phone.