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Interpreter services for patients face cut

Sun., Dec. 12, 2010

SEATTLE – About 70,000 Washington residents who do not speak English fluently may lose access to interpreters during medical visits under a proposed budget cut.

The proposed $2 million cut in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s emergency budget would eliminate a state-funded program that subsidizes interpreter services to medical clinics and hospitals who serve Medicaid patients.

Lawmakers met in a special session Saturday to approve other steps for trimming a $1.1 billion budget deficit through June.

Department of Social and Health Services spokesman Jim Stevenson said the program cut was part of a plan to cut $113 million from DSHS spending.

Interpreter groups and the medical industry said cutting the program would shift the cost of hiring interpreters to doctors, hospitals and clinics, or would be another reason for health care providers to stop serving Medicaid patients.

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