June 08, 2006
More on the faxes to nowhere

The Chron editorializes about the faxes to nowhere, and in doing so they say what should be done next.

  • Stop further CHIP disenrollments until Accenture meets basic performance levels.

  • Request that the 2007 Legislature reinstate 12-month eligibility for CHIP/Medicaid enrollment. The current six-month rule churns out more paperwork for the state and dissuades some eligible families from re-upping.

  • Suspend roll-out of the "integrated eligibility system" - which would expand the same privatized screening already in place for CHIP to other programs, including Medicaid and food stamps.

In short, no one else should be exposed to this privatization scheme until it works. Too many young Texans, and too many individuals' tax dollars, have already been dispatched into the void.

I think this last point needs to be emphasized more. The bottom line here is that we had in place a system that was working just fine, and we threw it out. When you replace a critical system that wasn't doing the job right, you can tolerate some transition pain, because you know that what you had before was no good, and once you get through that transition you know you'll be better off. That was not the case here, so to swap it out for something that isn't functioning properly right out of the gate simply isn't tolerable. Had we done a real pilot program, maybe all the screwups now could have been fixed before they really started affecting people. But we didn't, and so here we are.

Meanwhile, Rep. Charlie Gonzalez writes an op-ed in the Express News to respond to an earlier piece by THHSC chief Albert Hawkins extolling the virtues of the privatized system.

Given the complexities of these programs, we need trained, experienced staff helping people in need. Therefore, it makes little sense to bring in an outside company that has employees unfamiliar with these programs.

Face-to-face interaction is still more efficient than talking to a call center. Many people may have language or communication barriers and will have difficulty trying to find their way through the maze of the automated menu. Moreover, for our seniors, a staffed office will undoubtedly be more effective than waiting on hold for a call center employee.


I am not opposed to instituting new methods of delivering better service to constituents and investigating ways to save money. But "upgrading" should not come at the expense of children losing their health care coverage or a family having food taken off their table.

Persistent reports indicate the call center staff was poorly trained and employees' performance during calls and processing applications was substandard, which resulted in numerous people in real need being purged from the rolls.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities published a report on Accenture's efficiency, and a weekly status report showed that as of March 26, 39 percent of calls were abandoned and callers were on hold for an average of 22 minutes. This is never acceptable.

At a time when federal dollars for these programs are becoming scarcer, we need to make sure that efficacy is the paramount consideration.

Any restructuring should put the interests of the neediest in our community before other considerations.

Putting my customer service hat on for a minute, our internal help desk aims for average wait times of less than a minute, and an abandon rate of under 10%. I don't expect quite that high a standard for THHSC, but I certainly agree that what Accenture is doing is not close to being viable, and needs to be addressed ASAP. The question is how much the state will be willing to do on its own accord, and how much the feds will have to prod them to do. We'll see.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 08, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Fully expect that HHSC will NOT do anything to stop this train wreck w/out prodding from the Feds! We have been telling them for years this will not work! This is a perfect example of government waste of dollars, just so someone's "buddy" at Accenture can make more money off of failed government contracts!

Posted by: hhscsurvivalist on June 8, 2006 4:26 PM