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Important 2020 DOWC rule change for interpreter certification

The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DOWC) has announced a delay in the interpreter certification

December 1, 2019
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The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DOWC) has announced a delay in the interpreter certification rule originally scheduled to take effect in early January. They will launch a new rule-making process in January, with adoption of a new rule at the end of April. There will be stakeholder meetings in December and January to inform the development of the new rule.

You can find more information here under Events & Training.

Effective April 30, 2020, the DOWC is requiring interpreters to be nationally certified for Pinnacol Assurance and other payers to reimburse them for services.

The two certification programs specified by the DOWC are the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters or the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. Certification is available for Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Russian and other languages.

Without proof of one of these certifications, Pinnacol and other payers cannot reimburse the vendor for interpretation services if certification is available for the language interpreted.

Providers can use their own interpreters, but Pinnacol cannot pay them unless they are certified and prior authorization is obtained. Providers must make alternative arrangements such as working directly with the vendors or employing bilingual staff to provide interpretation services for injured workers who request interpretation.

Action steps

  • Contact interpretation service vendors you may already work with to determine whether they are certified by one of the two certification bodies, or whether they intend to become certified.
  • Research additional vendors (telephonic or in-person) to determine if they can offer certified interpreters.
  • Qualified interpretation service providers can be found at Language World Services, Certified Languages International, MARTTI/Cloudbreak, Stratus Video, AT&T on Demand Language, etc.
  • Contact the DOWC with any questions.

The communication below from the DOWC explains their decision and provides details about the process and timeline:

Earlier this year, language was adopted into Rule 18 – Medical Fee Schedule, which goes into effect January 1, 2020. The adopted language requires payers to reimburse for the services of a certified interpreter when an injured worker does not proficiently speak or understand the English language.

We proposed this language at our stakeholder meetings earlier this year, and the changes were posted on the Secretary of State website in late July. A formal rule hearing was held, and the final rule was adopted in September.  Following adoption, the Division received extensive feedback from our stakeholders on this particular language.

In response to this feedback, the Division of Workers Compensation will be requesting an emergency rule provision that will delay the effective date of the above referenced rule requirement.

The Division will be noticing a permanent rule concerning the requirement for certification and the mandate to reimburse these services which will become effective no later than April 30, 2020.  In the meantime, Division staff will be seeking stakeholder input to determine the best path forward. Stakeholder meetings have been scheduled for Thursday, December 12th from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and Thursday, January 9th from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  The exact location and webinar options will be made available on our website under Events & Training in the upcoming days.  These meetings and your input are a greatly valued part of our rule making process, and we strongly encourage your participation.  

Christy Culkin, Medical Services Manager/Division Strategy Manager
Division of Workers' Compensation
633 17th St., Suite 400, Denver, CO 80202-3660
P 303.318.8668 | F 303.318.3758
christy.culkin@state.co.us | www.colorado.gov/cdle

DOWC Rules of Procedure – Proposed and Adopted

16-2(E) Standard Terminology for Rules 16, 17 and 18
Certified Medical Interpreter - certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters or the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters

18-7(H) Division Established Codes and Values - The Use of an Interpreter
Payers shall reimburse for the services of a qualified interpreter in specified settings if the injured worker does not proficiently speak or understand the English language.

A qualified interpreter must be provided via video remote interpreting service or on-site appearance at complex medical treatment appointments, at behavioral health appointments and when otherwise requested by the provider or injured worker. Providers may but are not required to use bi-lingual staff to provide third party interpretation when a qualified interpreter is not available.

Qualified interpreter is defined as:

  • a Certified Medical Interpreter, if this certification is available for the injured worker’s language; or
  • for all other languages, is fluent in English and the necessary target language, has knowledge of basic medical and/or legal terminology, and knowledge of health care interpreting ethics and standards of practice.

Providers are prohibited from relying on minor children and should refrain from using adult family members, and friends as interpreters. The exceptions are unavailability of a qualified interpreter in the case of “other” languages and in an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public.

Rates and terms shall be negotiated. Prior authorization is required except for emergency treatment. Non-qualified interpreters are not eligible for reimbursement. DOWC Z0722.

DOWC Rule