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Office of Governor v. Pub. Emp't Relations Comm'n

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

September 22, 2014

Office of the Governor, Appellant ,
v.
The Public Employment Relations Commission et al., Respondents

Oral Argument April 14, 2014

Appeal from King County Superior Court. Docket No: 12-2-24215-1. Judge signing: Honorable Jean Z Rietschel. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 05/22/2013.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Donna J. Stambaugh, Assistant, for appellant.

Anita Hunter (of Washington Federation of State Employees ) and Edward E. Younglove III (of Younglove & Coker PLLC ), for respondents.

Authored by J. Robert Leach. Concurring: Michael S. Spearman, James Verellen.

OPINION

Page 1178

[183 Wn.App. 760] Leach, J.

¶ 1 The State appeals a superior court decision affirming a Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC or Commission) decision that included certain independent contractor interpreters in the statewide collective bargaining unit defined in RCW 41.56.030(10). These interpreters work in local health jurisdictions and public hospitals through the voluntary Medicaid Administrative Match (MAM) program. The State claims this statute authorizes collective bargaining only with interpreters paid from state funds and that PERC exceeded its authority and erroneously interpreted and applied the statute by including in the bargaining unit interpreters paid from local and federal matching funds under the MAM program. Because the Commission did not exceed its authority or err in its interpretation of the statute and substantial evidence supports its finding that the statute includes MAM interpreters in the statewide bargaining unit, we affirm.

FACTS

¶ 2 Under the Medicaid program, states receive federal matching funds to provide health-related services to qualified low-income and/or disabled individuals. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) administers and distributes federal funds received by the state for public assistance and medical services programs.[1] DSHS must ensure the availability of bilingual services for non-English speaking applicants and recipients.[2] Private health care providers who accept Medicaid patients also receive federal funds and must ensure bilingual services.

[183 Wn.App. 761] ¶ 3 To reduce the burden on individual health care providers who accept Medicaid patients at low reimbursement rates, DSHS has voluntarily undertaken to fund these providers' interpreter services. DSHS sometimes uses its own employees to provide interpreter services. It also provides these services by contracting with nonprofit language access brokers, who receive a fixed fee

Page 1179

based on an estimated number of appointments. DSHS sets a separate hourly rate for interpreters, which the broker passes through to a language access agency. The language access agency in turn contracts with and pays the individual interpreter. The State's portion of the funds matched by federal moneys comes from state legislative appropriations.

¶ 4 Under the voluntary MAM program, which DSHS administers under federally required terms for Medicare and Medicaid services, certain local health jurisdictions and public hospitals may also receive federal funds for interpreter services. Participating local entities provide their own matching funds and do not receive ...


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