Category Archives: Social.Services

Hagert: Outsourcing costs the poor

Source: Celia Hagert, CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY PRIORITIES, Austin American Statesman (TX), Monday, June 26, 2006

The state’s attempt to change the way Texans in need get health care, food, and temporary cash assistance has been a disaster. In June 2005, the state outsourced the enrollment process. As a result, more than 100,000 children lost their health insurance in the past six months. As of May 9, nearly 7,000 Food Stamp applications were backlogged, leaving thousands of families without food.

Report shows increase in abuse since privatization of state child-welfare system

Source: By Josh Hafenbrack, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 25, 2006

Florida’s switch to a privatized child-welfare system has been followed by increased instances of abuse and more children shuffled among foster homes, a state audit has found.

The number of Florida children who are abused multiple times has steadily increased since the state started shifting its child-welfare system to private hands in 1999, according to a report released this month by the Legislature’s investigative arm, the Office of Program and Policy Analysis & Government Accountability.

Our View: Foster-system flaws

Florida Today, June 23, 2006

Privatization has long been the mantra in Tallahassee, touted as the miracle cure to cut taxpayer costs. In 1998 lawmakers targeted child welfare services, mandating foster care, adoption and child abuse prevention services be outsourced to private, community-based providers by 2005. ……. An audit from the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability released this week shows the new system has had some successes, such as doubling the adoption rate for foster kids. But it also points out glaring deficiencies, culled from data comparing the year before the transition to private agencies to fiscal year 2004-05.

Callers give up in one-third of CHIP calls

Source: By Diana Washington Valdez. El Paso Times (TX), 06/14/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT

About a third of people from throughout Texas who called the state’s CHIP call center hung up for various reasons, possibly out of frustration. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, during the week of May 7, nearly 43 percent of calls placed to the Accenture/Texas Access Alliance call center in Midland were what the state considers “abandoned calls.” For the week ended June 11, the rate was better but still high at about 32 percent.

Mike Gross, vice president of the Texas State Employees Union, said that the abandoned-call rate is the percentage of callers who hang up before an operator answers their call, and that long waits on hold are the main reason people give up on their calls. According to the $899 million call center contract, the contractor is supposed to keep the abandoned call rate at 5 percent or below.

Your reservation is ready / Human services consolidation moves to the front of the line

Source: By Ethan Butterfield, Washington Technology, 06/12/06; Vol. 21 No. 11

We’ve grown fond of the way the Internet has made some of life’s most tedious and time-consuming transactions less onerous. …… Now, citizens who receive public assistance are pressing for the same kind of online access from human services agencies.

…… Most state governments are running their human services programs on IT platforms that are two or three decades old and no longer can provide the services that government leaders and citizens demand. The push for replacements and sweeping improvements in service delivery is strong and growing, said industry officials and analysts. Market research firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va., is tracking about 80 human services acquisitions across the country. State and local spending on human services hardware, software and services will grow at an average annual rate of 8.3 percent, from $8.3 billion in fiscal 2006 to $10.7 billion in fiscal 2009, according to market research firm Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn.

Editorial – BLACK HOLE: Fate of 144 missing social service enrollment forms should mark a turning point for the state

June 6, 2006, 8:59PM
Source: Houston Chronicle, June 7, 2006

Not even the fiercest critics of Texas’ social service privatization scheme envisioned it. For the past three months, according to Chronicle reporter Polly Ross Hughes, dozens of private health and financial forms faxed to the Health and Human Services Commission belched forth instead into the Take Care Store warehouse in Seattle. No critic could predict the snafu, and no lawmaker — even those who pushed the disastrous privatizing of benefits screening — would wish it. A wrongly printed form, it turns out, may have given applicants the wrong fax number.

…… The so-called “black hole” episode just adds to the damage already inflicted by Accenture, the new screening contractor that wrongly disenrolled numerous Texas children from health insurance for the working poor. The incidents worsen the effect of new enrollment policies, which make qualifying for that insurance harder.

Contractor could pay extra costs for online system

Source: By LIZ AUSTIN, Associated Press (TX), Fri, May. 26, 2006

AUSTIN – The Texas Health and Human Services Commission may force the contractor in charge of operating two major benefit programs to repay the state for unexpected costs in the rocky rollout of its new online eligibility system. The Texas Access Alliance could also be penalized for failing to meet performance goals outlined in its contract, commission officials said Thursday. …… Using the new system, the state plans to replace 99 of its 310 eligibility offices with four call centers run by the TAA, a group of companies led by the technology consulting firm Accenture.

GAO: Offshoring in Six Human Services Programs: Offshoring Occurs in Most States, Primarily in Customer Service and Software Development

GAO Report GAO-06-342, March 28, 2006

As states and the federal government have sought to streamline and improve administrative processes and take advantage of technological advances, both have outsourced certain functions to private firms. In some cases, these firms have used offshore resources to perform these functions. As a result, questions have been raised about the prevalence of offshoring in federal human services programs. In response to widespread congressional interest, we conducted work under the Comptroller General’s authority to determine (1) the occurrence and nature of offshoring, (2) the benefits state agencies have achieved through offshoring and problems they have encountered, and (3) the actions, if any, states and the federal government have taken to limit offshoring and why.

…… On average, these comparisons showed that with some services performed offshore, contract costs would be between 0.3 and 24 percent less than if all the services in the contracts were to be performed in the United States. The few state officials that reported any problems with the quality of services provided by offshore contractors said that they involved difficulties in understanding the English of software programmers or customer service representatives. While numerous actions have been proposed at the state and federal levels to limit offshoring by government agencies, few restrictions exist with respect to the six programs we reviewed. Two states–New Jersey and Arizona–have prohibited offshoring in state contracts.

Congressmen attack privatization plan

Source: Guillermo X. Garcia, Express-News (TX), Web Posted: 05/25/2006 12:00 AM CDT

Declaring it a failed experiment that is harming the neediest in the state, a group of Texas congressmen including Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, a San Antonio Democrat, urged state leaders Wednesday to immediately cease a plan to privatize the screening of welfare applications. But Republican leaders, who control the Legislature and the top elected offices in the state, appeared unwilling to comply with the House Democrats’ request.

Union chief questions privatization of welfare / Points to problems in other states with similar contracts

Source: By Ken Kusmer, Associated Press (IN), Wed, May. 24, 2006

The union chief for workers at the state’s human services agency has written Gov. Mitch Daniels to question a plan to outsource, with little input from the public, the application process for food stamps and other welfare benefits. Executive Director David Warrick of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees-Council 62 said in a letter dated Friday that in other states, contract employees “have given applicants erroneous or contradictory information that has resulted in loss or refusal of benefits in which they are entitled.” It cited problems with similar contracts in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.