How Low Can You Go?

It’s insulting.  I just received a call from an agency that has called me several times over the years to serve as a medical interpreter for some of their Workmen’s Comp clients in the Indianapolis area.  My rates are reasonable by most standards.  We agreed on them originally, and they paid them without any fuss.  They also paid me for mileage, although they wouldn’t even match the Federal rate, but I tolerated it. 

This afternoon I heard from this company for the first time since last fall.  They say they have a new system, a “Five-Star Rating System”, and they want to “negotiate” my rates so I can be “competitive” with the other providers in my area.  (Red flag!)

First the caller started with my certifications.  She needs proof, she said, that I have a company certification.  (I certainly do–I’m a Certified Woman’s Business Enterprise with the State of Indiana AND the City of Indianapolis, as well as a trained Spanish-English medical interpreter. What do they do with independent providers who aren’t a company??) Okay, so no problem there.

Then we got into the rates.  “I see you charge $XX with a 2-hour minimum,” she said.  I concurred.  “In order to be a competitively ranked Five-Star provider, we’d like to negotiate a payment with you of $YY.”  I was stunned.  She was offering me less than two-thirds of my current rate, which is already more than fair for this area.  I said no dice.  I could see this was going downhill.

Next she brought up the mileage.  As it was, they had only been paying $0.45/mile despite the Federal rate being $0.51/mile and gas now pushing $4.00/gallon.  This lady then had the nerve to ask me to “negotiate” a gas rate of  just $0.30/mile.  That was  unbelievable. I said an emphatic no to that one, too. 

Finally, she told me they now pay a flat rate for No Shows that is basically just a one-hour rate (nowhere near enough to compensate for the expended (read, wasted) time to drive there, cool your heels until you find out no one came and go back to the office) and NO mileage rate to compensate for your gas.  I politely declined again.  We were three for three.

Where is it written that it’s okay to devalue medical interpreting to the point that rates are “negotiated” down to nothing while when pocketing the difference the agency greedily fattens its bottom line?  It’s disgraceful and unprofessional, especially with that old canard “cheap pay will make you a Five-Star competitive provider”.  Baloney!  Do you tell a doctor to drop his rates to be  a “five-star competitor”?

Professional work deserves professional pay.  Foreign language provision deserves the respect of any other highly skilled talent.  Don’t show up on this doorstep to wheedle down the pay rates in order to make us think it’s “competitive”!  Quality is worth the price, and you get what you pay for.

That company should be ashamed of itself.  And as for all those “Five-Star providers” it’s ostensibly sending out?   I feel sorry for their patients.

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