Interpreter Fees: 2 Hours Min. AT the Market Rate? No!!!!!
Happy Monday, dear readers!
Last week, your humble blogger managed to have a cup of coffee with one of the bright young minds helping to shape the workers’ compensation world. She expressed some understandable frustration with interpreter bills.
For those trying to follow along, California Code of Regulations section 9795.3(b) provides that interpreters get paid at a set rate for a minimum of half day or full day for hearings, arbitrations, or deposition (subsection 1) or $11.25 for every quarter hour, for a minimum payment of two hours for “all other events (subsection 2). In the alternative, interpreters are to be paid the market rate.
My zealous colleague asked a fairly simple question – why do we pay the minimum hours AT the market rate? Should market rate be for actual time spent, and set rates with minimum times for the rest?
Let’s say an interpreter provided one hour of interpreter services for a medical appointment and is able to establish that the market rate is $50 per hour for interpreters. Well, either the interpreter is entitled to $50 (the market rate for the time spent) or $45 per hour for a two-hour minimum as per section 9795.3(b)(2), or $90. The interpreter should NOT be entitled to a minimum of two hours AT the market rate, right?
Clearly, any theory that results in a reduction in liens and fees to be paid by WC defendants is on the right track and deserves our unwavering support. Given my own experience that workers’ compensation Judges sometimes like to see something other than your humble blogger’s endorsement of an idea, I thought some research might be warranted.
Among the sources found was the case of Guitron v. Santa Fe Extrudes, an en banc case from 2011. Therein, the WCAB held that “[w]hile $11.25 per quarter hour, or market rate, as proven by lien claimant, appears to be a reasonable standard, we are not prepared to conclude that the two-hour minimum applies to all medical appointments, some of which might take only 10 to 15 minutes.”
In a 2010 panel decision, Mendez v. Santa Barbara Farms, the commissioners actually went the other way, holding that the lien claimant was entitled to the “market rate” of $115 for two hours, but this was based on other defendants rolling over and paying the full fees to establish the “market rate.”
Your humble blogger wasn’t able to find too much more on this argument, but from the looks of it the field is wide open in terms of binding authority for making this sort of argument.
So, anyone willing to give this a try? Please let your humble blogger know how it goes!