What Does “Qualified” Mean Anyway?: Yesterday’s post brings us to another gripe with insurance companies and their in-network lists. When therapists decide to join a company’s in-network list, they fill out a stack of papers, listing their background, specialties, qualifications, etc. There is usually a list of languages that you can check off, to indicate your “fluency” in any number of languages, including ASL, or sometimes just “sign language”. All anyone has to do to indicate that they are “qualified” to work with Deaf clients, is make a little notation in the ASL box. That’s it. No need to provide certification or any evidence attesting to your signing ability or knowledge and familiarity with Deaf culture. See here for the actual provider application (scroll down to the top of page 6).
We have had clients tell us horror stories about how their insurance companies referred them to therapists who had noted their ASL fluency on their in-network provider application, only to find out that the therapists knew four signs or had taken one course in ASL or had a hard-of-hearing great-uncle and “knew how to communicate with Deaf people”. See this story for a tragic and totally unnecessary ordeal one Deaf man and his family experienced while seeking a qualified therapist.
Even if an insurance company does have in-network therapists who can sign, the Deaf client may not always want to see one of these therapists. It could be that the client already knows the therapists on a social basis – maybe they went to Gallaudet together or maybe the therapist is the Deaf person’s mother’s best friend or something like that. In this type of situation, it only seems fair that the insurance companies recognize the limited choices of therapists they are offering the Deaf person (compared to the hundreds of choices they offer their hearing members) and allow sessions with an out-of-network therapist at no additional charge.