No majority for abolishing the maligned interpretation fee

Moderaterne align with S and V, and vote against their own policy

Alternativet, Enhedslisten, SF and Radikale have presented a proposal to abolish the interpreter fee, which Lars Løkke's government introduced in 2018. Today, you must pay for an interpreter yourself if you need one, in cases where the patient has lived for more than 3 years in Denmark. A rule that has been heavily criticized over time by, among others, the Danish Medical Association and the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Refugees Welcome has also strongly warned against the interpreter fee, which hits refugees hard and creates inequality in health.
One of the issues Moderaterne promised during the election campaign was to work for abolishing some of the "crazy" rules in the field of immigration, which Lars Løkke admitted had gone too far during his time as prime minister. The new party probably got a lot of votes for that, but it seems that the election promises were quickly forgotten. The political spokesperson for Moderaterne Monika Rubin is even a doctor herself, and highlights her opposition to the interpreter fee in several places on her own website. Here she writes among her main issues: "... that the interpreter fee in the healthcare system is removed. It is a waste of money not to treat patients' ailments correctly the first time because of the language barrier. The interpreter fee is an expensive symbolic policy.”
Nevertheless, according to Politiken, she will vote against the proposal together with the rest of the government.
According to the proponents, the fee affects 10,000 people each year. However, the number would probably be even higher if many employees in the healthcare system did not find ways to avoid collecting the fee. Patients pay between DKK 191 and DKK 1,675 in fees per time, which brings in 1.8 million annually to the state – but the cost of administration is far greater, namely DKK 5-10 million.

Arguments against the interpretation fee:

1) Expenses for the administration of the scheme exceed the income, and important time is taken away from doctors and other health personnel.
2) You cannot force a patient to pay for a professional interpreter but must accept if the patient herself brings a person who wants to interpret. However, this person will often be a close family member, which can involve ethically inappropriate situations, and the volunteer interpreter may also not know professional terms.
3) Bad or no interpretation constitutes a health risk for the patient and puts the doctor in an indefensible situation where he/she cannot communicate professionally. This can lead to errors in both diagnoses and treatment.
4) Only a minor share will, after 3 years in Denmark, be able to speak and understand Danish at a sufficient level to have a conversation about symptoms, treatment etc. without misunderstandings – some will never be able to. It is misunderstood and arrogant when politicians claim that foreigners can just get their act together and make an effort. Imagine a Dane who moves to Egypt as an adult and after 3 years in the country must be able to conduct all conversations about his cancer treatment course with a doctor in Arabic?
5) The expense is a particular problem precisely for the group that it affects: foreigners with up to 9 years of residence receive as unemployed only what corresponds to half of the normal benefits (kontanthjælp), and self-supporting foreigners typically have quite low income for the first several years. Female refugees and immigrants have both a lower income and poorer language skills than men and are thus more affected by the fee.

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