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    Monday, March 20, 2006

    The Silence Must Have Been Deafening: A Deaf Human Rights group picketed a doctor's office in Cleveland for refusing to hire deaf interpreters:

    Two dozen activists who say doctors are unlawfully refusing interpreters for deaf patients staged a protest in a medical office building Thursday, trying at one point to push past police to confront a physician who refused to meet with the group.

    .....The group disrupted Solymos' practice on the campus of St. John West Shore Hospital for more than three hours, chanting, marching and sitting in the middle of the open waiting room. Patients and pharmaceutical representatives occasionally passed by with curious glances.

    Many deaf people do, indeed, need interpreters to adequately comprehend what's being said. Written language skills are often sorely lacking among the deaf community. (Not among all, but among many.)

    However, it's the doctor has to pay for the interpreter:

    Protestors said doctors who refuse to provide interpreters are breaking federal law under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

    But the equal-rights requirement is not clear-cut for small enterprises, which may not have to provide services that impose an undue burden, said Andrew Imparato of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

    And it is an undue burden. Here in Akron, the deaf interperters charge a minimum of $60. The average insurance reimbursement for that visit is $55. The Medicare reimbursement is $51. The Medicaid reimbursement is $35. Is it really just to expect the doctor to essentially pay for the privilege of seeing the patient?

    Maybe the activists should be protesting the high prices of sign language interpreters.

    posted by Sydney on 3/20/2006 08:23:00 PM 4 comments


    I ran into this situation myself. A deaf patient was referred to me, and on the first visit he brought with him an sign interpreter and a letter from a lawyer outlining my responsibilities to pay for the interpreter for every encounter. I suggested that he might be better served by the local family medicine residency program office that had an interpreter on staff. This was followed by a threat from the lawyer to file charges against me under the Americans with Disabilities Act. My malpractice insurance carrier told me I had no defense and just to suck it up and see the patient. Fortunately I had an out. The patient was on Medicaid, and I wrote a letter to the state Medicaid agency terminating my participation. All of my existing Medicaid physicians had to find another doctor. I told a few of they why. Everyone lost. The deaf patient had to find a new doctor too. I hope the lawyer is happy.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:40 PM  

    wow, seems goofy. I've seen enough people who speak foreign languages bring in friends, relatives, etc to help translate for them. The spanish community is particularly good about this in our area. The patient you mention seems as if he was looking for a fight. Too bad the patient was so destructive to your practice. Why wouldn't he pay for the service himself or learn to lipread?

    By Anonymous Dara, at 10:52 AM  

    I was told that a doctor's office is a "place of public accommodation" which under the ADA must provide "accommodation" at its own expense for the deaf who only communicate by sign language. I am told that by law we also must provide translators for non-English speaking patients. Just another unfunded mandate that's slowly putting the small private medical practice out of business. The lawyers get another victory, but at what expense?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:28 PM  

    how enlightening! I am deaf. I do not, in most cases, need an interpreter. I am a professional myself and probably could afford an interpreter. Most of the Deaf community are not professionals. Most could not afford to pay. Do you have any idea of the stresses on a person who has to entrust one of you M. Dieties without being able to explain how they feel? Glad I haven't needed any of your services yet!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:01 AM  

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