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Sign language interpreter contract transition

On January 1, 2020, the Health Care Authority (HCA) and the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) partnered to implement a new way for medical providers to request sign language interpreters for Apple Health (Medicaid) clients.

Changes to interpreter services during COVID-19

Learn more

About the transition

Three objectives helped drive the decision to transition from Universal Language Services to using the state sign language contracts managed by ODHH:

  • To improve Apple Health client access to sign language interpreters
  • To remove language access inequities through better communication matches
  • To separate sign language interpreter services from spoken language interpreter services

We are working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for providers, interpreters and members of the Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, and Deaf Plus community. If you are experiencing issues, we want to hear from you.

Please contact us at interpretersvcs@hca.wa.gov.

Stakeholder meeting: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all stakeholder meetings have been postponed until further notice.

Clients: Your health care provider is required to provide spoken and sign language access, according to the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For more information, visit the Interpreter services (clients) webpage.

Providers: new sign language request process

HCA and the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) have created a new process for requesting sign language (SL) interpreters for Apple Health (Medicaid) enrolled clients. HCA is offering Apple Health providers a variety of options to learn about the new process.

What does this mean for me?

  • Submit your request using the "Online Prior Authorization Submission" process​​ in the ProviderOne portal
  • Select the Organizational Unit type: 530-PA Sign Language
  • Attach a completed Master Interpreter Request Form (see important note below)

View the Prior authorization (PA) webpage for more information about:

  • How to submit a prior authorization request
  • How to check the status of an authorization

Important: Download and save the Master Interpreter Request Form before completing and submitting. Completing the form in your browser and then saving it may result in ProviderOne uploading a blank form.

You must fill out the first two sections completely or your request may be rejected. 

What if I have a last minute request?

If you need an interpreter and the client's appointment is less than seven days away, the request can be expedited by:

  • Sending an email to interpretersvcs@hca.wa.gov with the date of the appointment and the reference number
    • The subject line must include the reference number

Sign language interpreter services solutions during COVID-19

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is permitting local sign language interpreters to provide access through your video conference technology.

Requesting remote sign language interpreters

  • Include a note at the top or bottom of the Master Interpreter Request Form stating:
    • The appointment needs to be conducted remotely
    • What program/application you will be using:
      • GoToMeeting, Zoom, Skype, etc.

Once HCA processes the request and sends it to be filled, you will be contacted directly from the sign language agency or independent contractor. You must work directly with the sign language agency or independent contractor to provide any links or technical assistance needed from them to join the health care appointment.

What about already scheduled appointments?

If you already have an appointment scheduled, the sign language agency will contact you to find out if the appointment will be conducted remotely and to get the link or other information needed to participate.

What about DeafBlind clients?

For appointments with DeafBlind clients, a hearing interpreter and Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) will be provided. The hearing interpreter will participate remotely. The CDI is an essential staff and will be in the same location with the DeafBlind client.

You must send meeting invitations to both interpreters. The sign language interpreter referral agencies will help coordinate this. If you have questions or need assistance, you must contact the sign language interpreter referral agency.

To view a flow chart of the visual process and for additional information, please visit the DSHS Sign Language Interpreters webpage.

Training resources

For providers

For sign language agencies and independent contractors

Frequently asked questions

The fulfillment rates of sign language (SL) interpreter services covering appointments for the Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Medicaid population within Washington have historically been insufficient to meet the needs of the population. HCA interpreter services SL stakeholders have consistently asked HCA to consider contracting with SL agencies to provide SL services to Apple Health clients.

In July 2019, HCA contracted with a vendor to provide both spoken and SL services. While this new vendor was able to increase SL fulfillment rates, many Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing clients were not able to secure an interpreter for their Apple Health appointments.

After receiving feedback from stakeholders at the February 25, 2019 stakeholder meeting, HCA began exploring recommendations to either:

  • Work directly with SL agencies, or
  • Utilize the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) SL agency contracts.

Working through these two options with stakeholders, HCA opted to utilize ODHH SL agency contracts beginning January 1, 2020 to fulfill Apple Health client’s requests for SL interpretation services.

ODHH currently works with the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) to reprocure their SL contracts and implement new, statewide master contracts. HCA will utilize the SL master contracts to provide SL interpreters for Apple Health clients.

Visit ODHH’s website for more information about their Sign Language Interpreter Contractors.

Workgroups

HCA hosts a quarterly stakeholder meeting to keep the community up-to-date with program changes. From this group of stakeholders, HCA has formed a sub-workgroup that meets bimonthly and assists HCA with designing and implementing key pieces of the new process in partnership with ODHH.

Agenda and meeting materials are added as they become available. Contact interpretersvcs@hca.wa.gov to participate in these workgroups.

Stakeholder workgroup

Sub-workgroup

Contact