Due to COVID-19, HCA’s lobby is closed. Learn more about your customer service options.

Spoken language interpreters

As an Apple Health provider, you are required to ensure language access services are provided to your Apple Health (Medicaid) clients 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 language interpreter services for Apple Health health care appointments.

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

Overview

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.

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

  • Experiences trouble speaking or understanding English.
  • Has a ProviderOne services card.

Providers

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. You can use your own video-based technology by scheduling in-person appointments through Universal and participating remotely.

Guidance documents

View guidance on requesting interpreters during the COVID-19 state of emergency:

How to request a spoken language interpreter

You must register as a new requester with Universal in order for HCA to pay for interpreters for your clients attending Apple Health, Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), or Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) social service appointments.

Block appointments (DSHS/DCYF ONLY)

The DSHS Economic Services Administration (ESA) or DCYF may schedule block appointments. These appointments are for a specific amount of time rather than for a specific patient or client. For example, one interpreter for a two to eight hour block of time at a specific location.

Behavioral health appointment interpreter reimbursement

Did you know? Universal may reimburse you for behavioral health interpreter service appointments if Universal is unable to provide an interpreter through the portal. To learn more, view our behavioral health and interpreter services FAQ.

Language access providers (interpreters)

In order to be a language access provider (LAP) to provide you must be a certified, authorized, or registered LAP with DSHS Language Testing and Certification (LTC) program. Once you have become certified, authorized or registered, you will be required to register as an LAP with Universal to begin receiving and serving jobs for Apple Health, DSHS, and DCYF social service appointments.

LAPs are required to complete the Universal online registration process and complete the incident resolution process (IRP) approved by HCA. In 2014, the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) for LAPs and HCA developed the IRP in an effort to ensure high-quality language access services to the citizens of Washington and assure effective management and stewardship of state and federal resources.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How do I know if I am eligible to request an interpreter through HCA contractor, Universal?

To be eligible for HCA interpreter services through Universal, you must have a National Provider Identification (NPI) and be register with HCA as an Apple Health (Medicaid)-enrolled health care provider.

If you are a Health Home care coordinator who needs an NPI to request interpreter services, speak with your care coordination organization (CCO) to determine which NPI is appropriate for your use.

How do I register with Universal?

To be an authorized requester with Universal you must register with Universal Language Service. Once you are registered, Universal will provide your login information and requester guide to help you navigate the scheduling portal for requesting interpreter services.

How do I request an LAP?

Once registered, you will have access to the Universal software scheduling portal. On the portal you will enter the information regarding the Apple Health client, scheduled appointment date of service and time, and be able to request LAPs for a specific appointment, series of appointments, or family member appointments.

How do I know if the LAP is qualified?

HCA requires Universal to provide DSHS certified, authorized, or registered LAPs for all Apple Health health care appointments.

How do I get reimbursed for behavioral health appointments?

Only behavioral health services are eligible for reimbursement under HCA interpreter services. You must first request an LAP through Universal. If they are unable to provide an LAP, you may obtain an interpreter through other avenues and request reimbursement through Universal.

You must submit your request through Universal. If no interpreter has been assigned and you choose to cancel the request and obtain your own interpreter, you must provide documentation to Universal for reimbursement, including:

  • A canceled or unable-to-fill job number from Universal.
  • Proof of payment.
  • Updated W-9 form (only required once).
  • The completed reimbursement voucher.

Send your documentation via secure email to: billing@ulsonline.net.

HCA will only reimburse up to the Collective Bargaining agreement (CBA) per the contract with Universal. You are required to pay any additional fees incurred, including parking, ferry, and travel fees.

How do I know if my client is eligible?

Enter the client ID and information when scheduling an interpreter through the Universal portal Universal will do an eligibility check immediately following the request and notify you if the client is not eligible.

How do I know if my services are covered?

In addition to determining client eligibility when you are scheduling an interpreter, Universal will identify client's benefit service package. Universal will notify you if the service is not eligible.

Universal will not reimburse for services that are not covered under the benefit service package or for administrative services such as scheduling appointments, reminder phone calls, paperwork, inpatient hospital services, and nursing facility services.

Can I request an LAP on my own?

If you are unable to locate an agency or interpreter on your own, you can access multiple Department of Enterprise Services (DES) language contractors throughout Washington State. However, you will be required to pay for these contractors directly. HCA does not reimburse for spoken languages services other than behavioral health services.

Do I have to use Universal?

If you use a private contractor or agency, HCA will not reimburse you for these services unless you have followed the rules for behavioral health services only.

Can I request a specific interpreter?

Yes, if the appointment is deemed Medically Necessary for the continuity care and treatment for the client. You can request a specific interpreter for the following situations:

  • Continued counseling sessions
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy sessions
  • Cancer treatments as requested by medical provider
  • Pediatric private duty nursing (PDN) sessions in the home setting
  • Continuity of care for treatment plan or any treatment or medical procedure where a change in interpreter would impact the effectiveness and efficacy of the treatment
  • Ethnic background or religion (gender preference, cultural)

How do I notify Universal of a situation with LAPs?

HCA in coordination with Universal has developed an Incident Resolution Process (IRP)that provides guidelines for when the provider should reach out to Universal regarding the actions of a specific interpreter during a visit. To maintain high-quality language access services to the citizens of Washington State and assure effect management of interpreter services, the IRP allows providers to report good interpreter service skills and ineffective interpreter service skills.

Universal requires all interpreters to read and sign the document when registering to accept appointments.

Who is Universal Language Service?

Universal Language Service is the contractor that providers interpreter services to Apple Health (Medicaid) eligible clients for health care appointments and social service appointments for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Department of Children, Youth and Family (DCYF) offices.

How do I get my certification?

Per WAC 388-03-1960, spoken language interpreters must be certified, authorized, or registered with DSHS' Language Testing and Certification (LTC). LTC is the certifying body for interpreters. For more information about medical and social service certification see the DSHS LTC requirements.

How do I become a LAP/interpreter?

Once you have completed the certification, authorization, or recognized process through LTC, contact Universal Language Service at interpreter@ulsonline.net to register to accept medical and social services appointments. You will be required to complete all HCA contract requirements to begin servicing jobs.

How do I know what jobs I can accept?

Universal manages the HCA contract that oversees the coordination of Apple Health, DSHS, and DCYF appointments throughout Washington.

What is the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)?

In 2011, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was established between spoken language access (LAP) interpreters and the Governor of Washington to ensure equal access to pay, professional development, union management meetings, and grievances.

Resources

Program updates

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

Please note: If you subscribe to our RSS feed and use the Chrome browser, you will need to install the RSS feed extension for Chrome.