Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why not having a national language is hurting you all.

Normally I don't talk about conversations I have with my friends or Mr S.'s friends. But in this case I will make an exception. Because, I found it so interesting.

You see - Mr S.'s friend works in a hospital ER. This was her chosen field. She didn't just wind up there. She went to school specifically for that.

So, when we asked how she was liking her job. (She's only been doing it for a couple of years now) I was a little taken back by her reply.

Some of her complaints were typical e.g. "People who had money enough to buy designer handbags, clothes, shoes, and iPods, but wouldn't pay 3 bucks for medication for their child."

But you want to know her biggest complaint? The lack of a single national language. This is what she said - her hospital was spending a fortune on translators.

She is also a curious person by nature - so, she often asks many of the people who need translators how long they had lived in America. The answer was often a decade or more. The only English they had learned was how to ask for a translator. It is their right under law after all to have one. If a translator isn't available at the hospital. One needs to be called in. And they have to stay with the patient the whole time they are in hospital. In some cases they are able to video conference a translator in. But this is also very costly. Do you know how many languages are spoken in America?

How great is it that you can move to a country and not have to learn the common language? You can live your whole life - and make a decent living! The government bends to your whims, even to great financial detriment.

So - if you were wondering why your health care costs are "sky rocketing". You can thank the immigrants who refuse to learn a national language.


  1. Health care costs are high because of translation?

    So the 16% of gross domestic product that the U.S. spends (versus 9.7% in Canada, and 10.9% in Switzerland with its four official languages) is due to translation. Who knew?

    Certainly not those wild and crazy folks at the Harvard Medical School who in a 2003 New England Journal of Medicine article said that health administration alone cost $1059 per capita in the U.S. (versus $307 in Canada) and accounted "for 31.0 percent of health care expenditures in the United States."

    Just how much of the $294 billion they're talking about do you think is going to translators?

  2. Dave - I love a reader who makes me work and provides insightful comments.

    "Health care costs are high because of translation? "

    Well - it sounds like some of the reason is due to the massive need and cost of translation services.

    Granted I'm working on little sleep - and the numbers aren't easy to find a consistent analysis on. But, it sounds like in 2002 the Office of Management and Budget estimated the cost to be 267.6 mil.

    I'll work on finding some more up to date numbers. But - just those numbers are pretty significant.

    From the same article it says that phone translation services can run up to 270 bucks an hour.

    When I get an extra minute - it would be interesting to see how much health care costs have risen since 2000 when Clinton mandated the order for interpreters for health care providers who accept federal funds. In comparison to the rise from the previous years.

    Article href = here:,_Clinics_Lack_Interpreters

  3. I'm sorry. If you think the cost of translation services is anything more than a rounding area in the overall arena of health costs, I'm not going to be able to convince you otherwise.

    Even accepting your $267 million figure from OMB (an outfit that I would never suspect of having an agenda), that's less than one tenth of one percent of healthcare expenditure.

    I have to say it sounds a lot like the ranting about "all that money" going to foreign aid, when the FY 2005 actuals for all of the State Department plus other international activity was $27.5 billion (including $4.7 billion for 'foreign military financing.' In a $2.4 trillion budget.

    Your final sentence implies that any increase in health care costs since 2000 would be due to the interpreter thing. You can't really believe that codswallop, no matter how much tile grout you've been exposed to. I could as well argue that the increase was the result of Hastert's becoming Speaker of the House.

  4. Dave- I'm trying to figure out if we are having a spirited debate. Or if you are taking a "tone" with me. Please let me know. So I can decide which response I give and how much energy I want to spend on you.

    See - this is the problem. In my view you are taking an all or nothing stance. Which is never how life is.

    Additionally this statement makes me think you are just gearing for a fight:

    "Even accepting your $267 million figure from OMB (an outfit that I would never suspect of having an agenda), "

    When I clearly said these numbers are not easy to find. In my view the government consistently underestimates the cost of everything.

    You are also concluding I have a problem with foreign aid. Which I don't. So - if you want to have a debate about the topic at hand. The cost that not having a national language is costing the health care industry. I'm game.

    But, I'm pretty busy and don't want to get sucked into a debate where the goal post is constantly moving.

  5. No, I wasn't gearing for a fight. I took your original point to be that health care costs are sky high because of immigrants who refuse to learn English.

    You gave the OMB figure (and I accept the fuzziness of such things). The $267 million is one tenth of one percent of health care cost. Even if that's off by a factor of ten, the notion that translation services are responsible for sky-high health care doesn't hold water.

    I used the foreign aid figure as an analogy and didn't mean to imply that you agreed with that particular rant, only that the health care translation rant, in my opinion, parallels it.

  6. Okay - that is completely fair.

    I'm sorry I mistook your post.

    Please understand I am in the last two weeks of getting the crapshack done. There are a great many final details. Today I grouted a floor, helped hang molding, and sniffed a lot of glue. I mean wood oil. So I'm much more tired than I normally am.

    I've been working pretty much every day for 4 months. Note - this is reason for my lack of sense of humor. So - I totally apologize.

    I do enjoy readers who challenge me! I'm just so tired - I can't tell in text a good debate from poking. I hope you stay and give me a run for my money. Just be gentle for two weeks.

    Again - please accept my apologies.

  7. You don't have anything to apologize for; this is your virtual bar, and I'm just a guy who dropped in.

    I'm not much of a debater, which is why I say things like "codswallop." If the bartender asks what I think about the program that's on TV, I feel free to say "I'd rather be trampled to death by hamsters." But I'm not trying to convert her to the same point of view.

  8. ""I'd rather be trampled to death by hamsters."

    So... many... hamster jokes. Must resist urge to create a misunderstanding.

    Death by hamsters doesn't seem all that bad. It's sort of like death by tickling. Or suffocation by daiseys. Right?

  9. Being trampled by hamsters would be a very long process. Imagine your crapshack work having to be done with one of those $25 kiddie tool sets.

    By your next door neighbor.

    After you accidentally put superglue on your toothbrush.