Expand ‘win-win’ interpreter model to other state agencies

OLYMPIA (Feb. 21, 2018) — In Washington state, medical interpreters who help Medicaid clients with limited English skills talk with their doctors, have joined together in a union and helped to create a more efficient procurement system for Health Care Authority (HCA) clients to access interpreter services.

When they ratified their first contract in 2011 with Interpreters United Local 1671 — an affiliate of the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 — some 1,600 independent contractor interpreters won significantly higher wages. Taxpayers won, too, as the new system for allotting work saved money by using a competitive bid process to hire a scheduling vendor.

Now legislators are considering expanding this successful formula to other state agencies, such as the Department of Labor and Industries. SB 6245, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle), has passed the Senate on a strong 31-16 vote and was heard Monday in the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee.

“This bill makes our procurement process more cost-efficient and effective, lowering costs for taxpayers — increasing pay for interpreters,” said Dennis Eagle, WFSE/AFSCME legislative and political action director. “It’s a win-win.”

TAKE A STANDCall 1-800-562-6000 today and leave a message for your State Representatives to support passage of SB 6245. Tell them to expand the successful Health Care Authority (HCA) procurement model and support more cost-effective interpreter services to Labor & Industries and other agencies. It’s good for interpreters, good for clients, and good for taxpayers!

Member of Interpreters United, WFSE Local 1671 at the State Capitol.

SB 6245 is about the procurement of interpreter services and how to schedule thousands of appointments in the most cost-efficient and effective manner. The bottom line: our state has years of data demonstrating that the HCA procurement model has proven to be more efficient and effective. In 2016, HCA paid an average of $47.97 per appointment, and the interpreter earned $38/hour. At the same time, L&I paid an average of $76.04 per appointment, and the interpreter earned approximately $25/hour.

The HCA system simply works better and Local 1671 members can tell legislators why first hand.

“With this bill… we can use technology to procure better-compensated interpreters, collect data and save millions for the taxpayers,” said Aida Sanchez-Vela, WFSE/AFSCME Interpreters United Local 1671.


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