Programs & services

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Interpreter services (providers)

Providers are required to ensure spoken and sign language access according to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Health Care Authority's (HCA) interpreter services (IS) supports you in your efforts by offering spoken interpreter services for Apple Health (Medicaid) healthcare appointments.

Note: For language access or ADA questions or to file a complaint, visit our nondiscrimination webpage.

Spoken language: temporary changes during COVID-19

During the state of emergency HCA will continue to offer over-the-phone (OPI) interpreters through Universal Language. Video remote interpreting (VRI) is not available through HCA's contract with Universal Language, however providers can use their own video based technology and in-person interpreters can participate remotely.

Sign language (SL) request process

HCA utilizes the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) master contract to obtain sign language interpreters. The Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) oversees the master contracts and partners with HCA to improve access to Sign Language (SL) interpreters for Apple Health (Medicaid) enrolled clients.

Visit the Sign language interpreter contract transition webpage for more details.

What you need to know

As a provider, you are required to provide interpretive services to any Apple Health Medicaid client that:

  • Experiences trouble speaking or understanding English.
  • Is Deaf, DeafBlind, or Hard of Hearing.
  • Has a ProviderOne services card.

Getting ready to request interpreters through Universal

You must register as a new requester with Universal in order for HCA to pay for interpreters for your clients attending Medicaid or DSHS/DCYF social service appointments.

Behavioral health information

Behavioral health is now available in all regions to coordinate physical health, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment services to help provide whole-person care under one health plan.

For additional information on these changes for providers:

In order to be eligible as a Medical or social service interpreter you must be DSHS certified, authorized, or a recognized interpreter. For spoken language, DSHS's Language Testing and Certification (LTC) Program is the certifying authority.

Once you have completed the certification, authorization, or recognized process contact Universal Language Service at to register to accept medical and social services appointments.

Language Testing and Certification (LTC) Program

Per WAC 388-03-160, spoken language interpreters must maintain their certification or authorization status by submitting all of the necessary requirements to the LTC Program by March 30.  If you missed the deadline refer to the DSHS-LTC website for more information about temporary credential reinstatement.

Getting ready to accept HCA jobs through Universal

You must register as a new interpreter/translator with Universal to continue receiving jobs for Medicaid medical and DSHS and the Division of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) social service appointments.

HCA Incident Resolution Process

In 2014, the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) for Language Access Providers (LAP), the Health Care Authority (HCA), and the then contracted coordinating entity partnered to develop the Incident Resolution Process (IRP) in an effort to ensure high quality language access services to the citizens of Washington State and assure effective management and stewardship of state and federal resources.

Interpreters are required to read and sign this document and return to the current contractor, Universal Language Services at prior to accepting any appointments.

In order for HCA to pay for interpreter services, the following criteria must be met:

  • The client is an eligible Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) client.
  • Services are an eligible Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) medical benefit.
  • The health care provider must be an HCA Medicaid enrolled provider.
  • The request must be made by DSHS- or DCYF-authorized staff.
  • Services are authorized and provided under the HCA contractor.

HCA will NOT pay for interpreter services when:

  • The interpreter is a member of the family.
  • Inpatient hospital services.
  • Nursing facility services.
  • Administrative services:
    • Answering or responding to general phone inquiries.
    • Scheduling appointments.
    • Making reminder calls.
    • Filing.
    • Copying.
    • Cleaning.
    • Miscellaneous tasks.

Interpreters provided through HCA's contractor are required to provide services within the scope of practice as defined by the interpreter Code of Professional Conduct. Providers may not ask them to perform non language related tasks.

In-person interpreting

In-person interpreting is most appropriate for complex, sensitive and life-threatening situations.

  • Sharing bad news / worsening health conditions
  • Family conferences
  • Speech therapy / neuropsychological testing
  • Conscious sedation procedures
  • Hands-on teaching or demonstrations
  • Delicate or complex cultural brokering
  • Medically necessary for specific interpreter request

Family member appointment

When the authorized requester schedules two or more consecutive appointments to see multiple family members with the same interpreter.

Block time appointment

When the Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) schedule an on-site appointment at a DSHS Economic Services Administration Office (ESA) or Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) office. These appointments are for a specific amount of time rather than for a specific patient or client.

In 2020, HCA switched from using a single coordinating entity for all spoken and sign language interpreter requests to using the dedicated sign language contracts managed by ODHH. In spring of 2020, DES and ODHH entered into a cooperative purchase agreement to provide statewide sign language interpreter services through master contracts available to all state agencies.

There are two master contracts:

  • Independent contractors: Sign language interpreters who coordinate their scheduling and business directly with the requestor, rather than through an agency.
  • Sign language interpreter referral agencies: Contractors who seek out and schedule appropriate interpreters for your request. There is an additional booking fee.

In January 2021, ODHH created the Interpreter Request Form for Medical Providers using Apple Health for all sign language interpreter requests. The new form replaces all other versions, and is screen reader compatible.

In March 2021, ODHH implemented an online request process. The new process is electronic and provides automated notifications. Providers submit requests directly to the sign language contractors.

Visit the Sign language interpreter contract transition page for more information



Program updates

Interpreter services sends updates via our email communications tool, GovDelivery.

Past notifications are available to view through our RSS feed.

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For any questions regarding interpreter services or the content on this page: