The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (THHSC) has finally acknowledged the inevitable.
Citing long wait times, inadequately trained staff and other problems, state officials announced Wednesday an indefinite delay in expanding privately run call centers statewide to screen applicants for health and welfare benefits.
With high hopes of saving $646 million over five years, Texas planned to roll out the private call centers statewide this year.
But a pilot center in Central Texas has produced a higher-than-expected volume of calls that are taking longer because the questions are too complicated for too few, inadequately trained staffers to answer, officials said.
Since January, customers have complained of long waits and problems getting benefits. More than 6,000 children were dropped from the Children's Health Insurance Program because their parents received incorrect information from Accenture.
A private call center in Midland, run by the Texas Access Alliance consortium headed by outsourcing giant Accenture, began screening applicants for adult Medicaid, food stamps, cash welfare and long-term care Jan. 20 in a pilot area stretching from Austin to San Marcos.
Yet in the week ending March 12, the private consortium reported that 15,838 calls - nearly 55 percent of all calls that week - abandoned the phone lines after holding an average of 21 minutes.
And then there's this gem from Father John:
Offices now have a 70 day lead time for applications. Federal regulations say you have to process applications in 30 days, which means you should be scheduling appointments within 20 days, because by law you have to allow people 10 days to provide you with the necessary proof to validate their case. 70 days to get an appointment is something never seen in the 13 years I was with the agency. I think the worst I ever saw was about 25 days... and that didn't last for long.