About 70,000 Washington residents who have limited English may lose access to interpreters during medical visits under a proposed budget cut. The spending cut proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire would eliminate a state-financed program that subsidizes interpreter services to medical clinics and hospitals who serve Medicaid patients. By Manuel Valdes The Associated Press
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About 70,000 Washington residents who have limited English may lose access to interpreters during medical visits under a proposed budget cut. The spending cut proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire would eliminate a state-financed program that subsidizes interpreter services to medical clinics and hospitals that serve Medicaid patients. At about $2 million, the proposed cut is a moderate one out of the governor’s emergency budget reductions, but one of the dozens needed as Gregoire and legislators grapple with a state budget that keeps falling in deeper deficits. Lawmakers met in a special session Saturday to approve steps for trimming a $1.1 billion budget deficit through June. Another, larger deficit in the next two-year budget also awaits when lawmakers return for regular meetings in January. The interpreter program is conducted by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which had been ordered to cut $113 million from its spending, spokesman Jim Stevenson said. Under federal law, health-care providers are required to make sure their Medicaid patients are able to communicate their needs well and for years the state felt it wasn’t fair to let providers carry that burden, he said. So the state created the interpreter program, in which the state pays for the services. Cutting the program would shift the cost of hiring interpreters to doctors, hospitals and clinics, or it will be another reason for health- care providers to stop serving Medicaid patients, representatives for medical and interpreters services aid. ….click here to read article in its entirety.