Update on July 18, 2021: The Governor signed this bill on July 14, 2021. Please check the measure history on this page. Thank you for your support. 

Advocacy 101 for Interpreters and Translators

Presentation written for NAJIT interpreters in preparation for advocacy at Capitol Hill in 2017

This presentation includes some guidelines on how to contact your representatives, find what their interests are, and know how to address their concerns. Though we are doing things remotely today, the basic principles are the same. The time legislators have is limited, and our messages need to be targeted to their interests, need to be respectful, and need to address our concerns. Legislators represent all constituents in their district regardless of party affiliation.

Text of the bill: House Bill 2359

This bill makes important changes for interpreters that solve problems the profession has been dealing for a long time. I have heard many interpreters ask me why they should bother to get certified, since getting certified meant they might no longer get work. It is also difficult to say that there are not enough interpreters to cover the need when we do not have recorded numbers to back that up. Requiring that the certification or qualification status of an interpreter with the OHA be recorded in the health record of a patient is good for patients.

A colleague of mine who recently passed away, Heidi Schmaltz, often told me that she would be interpreter number four in a string of healthcare appointments. Finally, when they got to her, the patient would understand how to use Albuterol. This meant that patients with asthma had been suffering from their asthma for longer, they had paid interpreters and doctors and nurses three times for ineffective appointments, and the patient had gone to three ineffective appointments before she showed up. That is why I strongly support this bill in her memory. It is to support patients and the doctors who serve them.

Who benefits when the name of the interpreter and their OHA registration number is entered into the patient’s medical record?

  • The patient. There is verification that best practices have been followed to find competent professionals who are tested in their interpreting skills, and held to the same standards as all the other professionals in the room.
  • The doctor. There is a lower risk of malpractice.
  • The hospital system, which has a lower risk of readmission.
  • The insurance company, which has a lower risk of paying for extended rates for in-hospital stays.
  • The interpreter, who can be contacted (it is now a requirement) if was an infectious disease event at the appointment. This prevents the spread of disease.

Who benefits when the interpreter is mandated by law to receive the same personal protective equipment as the other healthcare providers? This is extended to providing appropriate vaccines to interpreters free of charge.

  • The next patient the interpreter interacts with.
  • The interpreter.
  • The healthcare facility, which now has clear guidance.
  • The general community, which benefits from reduced spread of disease.

Who benefits when companies that act as intermediaries between independent interpreters and healthcare providers have clear guidance regarding the services they are required to provide?

  • The healthcare providers. Now they can get the services they have always expected: OHA certified and qualified interpreters at their facilities.
  • Patients. They can know what to expect when they go to an appointment. It is no longer necessary to take their children or neighbors to support them in case the interpreter is not good enough.

Who benefits when there is a place to submit complaints?

  • Everyone.

Who benefits when interpreters are treated in the same way as all the other professionals in Oregon, and are not artificially excluded from workers comp benefits?

  • This will create clarity regarding what is an independent contractor and what is an employee. Today, though the law states that interpreters who work for a language company are neither contractors nor employees, this is difficult to explain to a healthcare provider who is accustomed to require that all their prime contractors provide workers comp for all the people who receive pay for their services, no matter their employment status.
  • Removing this clause from the law does not change anyone’s employment status. Anyone who receives pay for their work is employed, though they may be employed as an independent contractor or as an employee.
  • Clarity is a good thing. This exemption was not passed with the support of interpreters in the first place. People who hire interpreters passed it without consulting with interpreters. At that time, interpreters and translators were not present in the legislative halls of Salem, Oregon.

Testimony submitted by other members of the community

Find Your Representatives – from the Oregonian

Who Represents Me in Oregon – Legislature site

These two sites will guide you to identify the legislators who represent you in your district. As you see what bills they have sponsored and their voting record, you, as a constituent, can tie the issues of this bill into their interests.

House Committee on Health Care Agenda for March 2, 2021

This gives the schedule for the meeting. It invites people to the meeting. I support every single item on the new HB2359. Heidi and I went to the Legislature several years ago to explore how we could make this happen. I am thrilled beyond belief to see that this is on the calendar.

House Committee on Health Care Agenda for March 2, 2021, with details

Submit testimony in writing to the Committee, and also to your legislators. They will eventually vote on the issues.

I support HB2359. I have no objections to any of its parts. Read it. Find your favorite part, and write a letter in support.

Testimony submitted