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Governor Brown signed AB 1376 which Delays until March 1, 2014, a regulation adopted by the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) that requires medical interpreters in the workers’ compensation system to be certified. The bill is deemed an urgency measure and thus takes effect immediately.

The regulation that was is in place prior to this measure being signed by the Governor, provides for three pathways for an interpreter to become certified. First, an interpreter who is on the existing State Personnel Board (SPB) list is automatically certified – however, the SPB has not updated its list in several years, and it is not “open” for new applicants at this time. An interpreter can also seek certification by passing either the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) exam, or the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (National Board) exams. Representatives of interpreters indicate that it can take up to six months to navigate these certification processes. The bill provides approximately six and a half months from the effective date of the regulation for uncertified interpreters to obtain the necessary certification.

According to proponents of this law, Voters Injured At Work (VIAW), the regulation adopted by the DWC was not able to include a delayed implementation date that would allow interpreters adequate time to comply with the specific certification requirements allowed by the regulation. As a result, VIAW claimed that an insufficient number of certified interpreters will lead to delays in obtaining medical treatment for injured workers who require an interpreter to effectively communicate with their physician.

Prior to the passage of last year’s workers’ compensation reform bill, SB 863 (DeLeon), multiple stakeholders reported significant abuse and serious problems with how medical interpreters were provided to injured workers. One of the most common complaints was the use of non-certified medical interpreters providing interpretive services to injured workers. These non-certified interpreters (also known as provisionally certified interpreters) were largely unregulated