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Paid or Unpaid: The Allied Health Training Debate

It can take up to 1,850 clinical hours to become a qualified allied health professional such as a diagnostic medical sonographer or a medical technologist. However, many may be surprised to learn this on-the-job training time is typically unpaid. To address this, California Assembly Bill 387 (AB 387) called for minimum wage pay for interns to relieve the financial burden of earning a certification. The bill would have also qualified the individuals for benefits, which could have had an impact on how employers approach business insurance for allied health.





While the bill died without discussion on the Assembly floor, it’s very introduction raises questions over whether prospective allied health care workers should be paid while completing their clinical hours. Proponents of the bill said it would go a long way toward leveling the playing field for traditionally underrepresented groups who could not do the clinical training because of financial hardship. After all, unless you can afford put in 1,800 hours with no income, you won’t qualify for one these positions—particularly when you factor in the cost of the underlying education needed before one can become an intern.

Hospitals argued paying these people would impose an additional layer of expense upon their operations, citing the fact they already compensate the staff tasked with training and supervising them. It was estimated paying the trainees minimum wage (currently $10.50 an hour in California) would add approximately $1.5 to $36 million to the annual budget of such facilities – depending upon their size. Here, it should be noted institutions employing 25 people or less would have been exempt. It would have only applied to larger organizations.

Other opponents expressed concerns about the continued involvement of hospitals and clinics if they were forced to pay. It was posited they would stop participating in the programs if the law mandated minimum wage for trainees. However, this argument overlooks the fact that these places need a steady stream of prospects in the pipeline to fill these important positions, from occupational therapists to surgical technologists, laboratory workers, dental hygienists, genetic counselors and many more. After all, these are specialized career paths for which practical training is only available in hospitals, clinics and private practices.

Meanwhile, those in favor of the bill said paid internships are quite normal in many other professions, so asking for it for allied health care trainees is not unreasonable. Either way, AB 387 was moved to the California State Assembly’s inactive file, where it will lie dormant unless the issue is raised again at some point in the future. Meanwhile, the underlying reality of the matter still exists. Lower income people may continue to experience great difficulty getting one of these positions because they can’t afford to put in the time to acquire the training they need to qualify, while healthcare organizations may miss out on quality hires because of the way many programs are currently structured.

One thing is clear: Employers do need business insurance for allied healthcare professionals they hire. CoverHound can help here. Learn more and get a free quote for your medical organization today!

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