- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

Interpreting the bill

English-language advocates say proposed health care reform plans would add billions to Medicare costs by providing on-site interpreters for low-income people with limited English skills who seek medical treatment.

They are objecting to language included in the House bill that would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study to figure out how to properly employ interpreters and pay them through the Medicare system.


The language to do this is found in Section 1221 of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, which instructs the secretary of health and human services to determine the “feasibility of adopting a payment methodology for on-site interpreters, including interpreters who work as independent contractors and interpreters who work for agencies that provide on-site interpretation, pursuant to which such interpreters could directly bill Medicare for services provided in support of physician office services for an LEP Medicare patient.”

K.C. McAlpin, executive director of ProEnglish, a national organization that supports making English the official language of the United States, said, “In light of the fact that the Medicare program already faces $38 trillion in unfunded liabilities according to the most recent trustees’ report, and is predicted to be bankrupt in a few years, adding an entitlement to free translation services is unbelievably irresponsible.”

He added that such a measure “is bad public policy” because it removes incentives for immigrants to learn English and could increase liabilities for medical providers because of translation errors.

This is not the government’s first effort to give people who don’t speak English translator accommodations. An executive order signed by President Clinton in August 2000 said that under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 people who don’t speak English must be given “meaningful access” to services provided by federal agencies, which includes Medicare and Medicaid.

California has extended the burden of providing and paying for medical translators to insurers. State law now requires that in-state insurance companies provide interpreters for patients who don’t speak English without any additional charges or fees.

McOutreach

McDonald’s is celebrating black culture 365 days of the year with a new campaign that plays up its service in black communities called “365Black.” The idea behind it is that black achievement shouldn’t only be discussed during Black History Month in February, but every day.

“Like the unique African Baobab tree, which nourishes its community with its leaves and fruit, McDonald’s has branched out to the African-American community nourishing it with valuable programs and opportunities,” says the campaign’s Web site www.365black.com.

The corporate campaign highlights the many ways the fast-food provider has touched the lives of black Americans by either giving them valuable work experiences or through philanthropic efforts. One young woman from South Bend, Ind., for example, discussed how “blessed” she felt to be chosen to play on the McDonald’s All American basketball team.

Carol Sagers, McDonald’s marketing director, said the black initiative was launched in 2003 to “capture some very targeted marketing programs and a very important, targeted consumer message with a creative element.”

McDonald’s also has an effort to target Asians called “Myinspirasian.” An ad posted on www.myinspirasian.com, for McDonald’s coffee has a ying-yang theme. In the ad, the narrator says: “When I think of great coffee my rational side says go for quality ingredients, while my emotional side says I’m falling in love. Freshly made McCafe mochas. No matter how I think McCafe is always on my mind.”

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