June 14, 2007
Accenture may be gone, but privatization lingers

As we know, the state of Texas terminated its contract with Accenture to operate call centers to determine benefits eligibility back in December. While the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) is trying to bring back former employees to pick up the work that Accenture couldn't do, that doesn't mean that the idea of outsourcing this task has been consigned to the dustbin. Indeed, according to an email I got from the Texas State Employees Union, it appears the HHSC is on the lookout for its next future ex-outsourcer:

HHSC plans to issue a new request for proposals for operating the call centers in December 2007. Then it plans to award the new contract a scant five months later in May 2008.

It will take companies two to three months to submit proposals, which will only give HHSC two to three months to evaluate them before making the award.

"It looks like HHSC is fast tracking its revival of the call centers. Fast tracking the original call center plan is one of the mistakes that led to disaster with the Accenture contract," said [Mike Gross, TSEU vice-president].

Well, I suppose you could say that nobody could be as bad as Accenture was, right? That depends, it would seem.

TSEU also warned that HHSC's new eligibility computer system TIERS is not designed to work in a call center environment. This and many other problems that have plagued TIERS are a long way from being resolved.

One of the potential contractors for the revived call center experiment will be Maximus, which was a call center subcontractor for Accenture. Maximus was supposed to make it possible for TIERS to operate in a call center environment. But its solution, a computer application known as MAXe3, never worked right, which, according to a report issued by the Comptroller, caused unacceptable delays in processing applications for services.

Boy, with a resume like that, what could go wrong? The troubles with TIERS are well known. Nothing like taking your existing failures and building on them.

"If HHSC wants to provide convenient and effective services, it needs to re-staff its local eligibility offices and provide state employees with technology that actually works," said Gross. "HHSC should also give state employees the responsibility for processing CHIP applications. Doing so, will make the transition between Medicaid and CHIP seamless."

On a side note, CHIP enrollments have dropped for four straight months.

Ted Hughes with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission blamed the decline on the agency's decision to end an amnesty program for families with incomplete applications.

Yes, CHIP enrollment is as much about administrative policy as it is about eligibility requirements. Which is why the tighter the rein kept on HHSC, the better. Let's keep an eye on this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 14, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo

Here's a little background on Maximus

Posted by: hope on June 14, 2007 12:37 PM