April 19, 2006
More HHSC privatization bashing

It's time once again to play Let's Bash HHSC Privatization! Anyone can play, but it's more fun if you have a say in how the contractor gets paid.

Angry House budget writers demanded Monday to know if the state will consider firing a new private contractor - or barring it from other state jobs - if its staffers continue bumping eligible Texans from health and welfare services.

The contract with Texas Access Alliance, headed by outsourcing giant Accenture LLP, is part of a major overhaul of eligibility screening of social services for children, the elderly, disabled and poor.

While lawmakers once were told the project would save the state $646 million over five years, that's now in doubt. The state recently decided to slow the project, beef up training and fix an array of technical and operational problems.

"I think each and every one of us are pretty disappointed with how this has turned out," Rep. Dan Gattis, R-Georgetown, said at the meeting of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

For the record, I'm not disappointed because I knew that number was a load of bull when I first heard it. To be disappointed, one must have expectations that are not met. Mine, I'm sad but not shocked to say, have been met exactly.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said he finds the plunging CHIP rolls alarming, noting the number of children served has fallen from 500,000 in 2003 to fewer than 300,000 now.

"It is tanking. Whether we want to deal with it or not, I think we have reached a crisis state with the CHIP program, and I am not a big fan of the contractors we are using," Turner said. "I speak for me, but if I hired them, I would fire them."


Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, said her staff is spending all its time trying to remedy application problems within the pilot area, including 90 minutes on hold with the call center Friday.

"That's a call from a legislative office - truly unacceptable," Dukes said.


Dukes warned that lawmakers in the rest of the state will not be "happy campers" when it comes time to appropriate money next biennium if their offices go through the turmoil hers has in helping constituents.

She complained that one constituent sent four applications, two by certified mail, but the call center said they were not received.

She asked Hawkins to provide her with a timeline of how long the state is willing to work with the Accenture team if the call center problems persist.

According to Samm Almaguer, the solution is hiring a boatload of temps, for up to six months. As Father John puts it:

Keep in mind, when I was hired, they took 6 months to train me before I was even sent to a field office to begin working on a reduced schedule... and it took another 6 months before I was really any where close to being up to speed as a case worker... and that is about the best that can be expected. This is window dressing, that will cost more money, but accomplish almost nothing.

The only temps that will be of any use will be former HHSC staff who need a job, and they will be the ones who are out of work at the moment, and so will be looking for something permanent elsewhere.

I figure a few former HHSC folks will hire back on, either because they need something now or perhaps because they may hope that this whole thing will get junked and they'll be brought back anyway later. It probably won't be enough, however.

Carlos Guerra has more. We'll see what happens from this point, but I fully expect that the next time this contract is reviewed, there will still be many problems with it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 19, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

U haven't even scratched the surface of this. The plan now is hire more people at Call Ctrs? People off the street, making a bit more than minimum wage, additional staff to train them, plus the additional training time because they weren't trainged in the first place!Have more

Posted by: HHSC Survivalist on April 30, 2006 9:46 PM