Saturday, December 30, 2006
Undoing the damage-Texas Health and Human Services acknowledges the shortcomings of its privatization plan - Houston Chronicle
Texas scales back plan to privatize its social services
By LIZ AUSTIN PETERSON-Associated Press
Blogs commenting on the "mess":
HHSC Reverses Course on Welfare Privatization - Fr. John Whiteford
More Privatization Tales - Eye on Williamson County
State finally cuts bait on Accenture - OfftheKuff
Wasn't Such a Good Idea to Privatize Social Services with Accenture (Remember them? Used to be Arthur Anderson Before ENRON!) - Somervell County Salon
Accenture gets the Clear Lake Axe - Bay Area Houston
Friday, December 29, 2006
Well, that reader has received ANOTHER response...this time from the Comptroller's Office...it was posted in the comments, but I feel it's worthy of being on the blog itself so no one misses it:
This was from the Comptroller's office:
Comptroller Strayhorn has received your e-mail regarding Medicaid's new
Women's Health Program, its potential negative impact on the troubled TIERS
system and potential problems that could result for families receiving other
types of financial assistance.
She has asked me to respond to you. We are forwarding a copy of your e-mail
without your name to the attention of Anne Heiligenstein, Deputy Executive
Commissioner for Program Services, Health and Human Services Commission. Alert local employees are often the first to realize potential problems and issues
involved in the application of new policies, programs and procedures within the
context of complex systems.
It is important for staff to stand up and be heard so that unforeseen negative consequences can be avoided. We applaud you for having the courage to do so. We are confident that Ms. Heiligenstein will investigate your concerns and make any appropriate changes in the Commission's plans so that the new program can proceed without creating additional problems for our state's neediest families.
If you need further assistance, please contact me by e-mail at email@example.com.
Let this response serve as a reminder to all of
us "in the field"- your voice CAN be heard. I encourage everyone willing to email whoever you can as much as you think possible to get the word out. We do have a voice, and we WILL be heard.--hhscemployee
Saturday, December 23, 2006
To my fellow workers: The work you do for the people in the State of Texas means something. You continue to work under very pressured conditions, yet somehow we are able to help those who need us. Because of the work we do, there are families in Texas who will be able to have a little hope for the holidays and the New Year. No matter the pressure we feel from those "in charge"- what you do is important. We are feeding children, keeping kids covered under Medicaid so they can get medical care, and we are helping those who need us make a better life for themselves and their families. Don't let anyone "out there" make you feel like you aren't in the business of HELPING OTHERS. We are. We can make this agency what it once was. We just must continue on trying to get others to see the same things we do.
I sent this email or a little longer version to all the State representatives and Senators (also dewhurst) I may not be working by the end of the week, but I will get heard..
Dear Representative whoever:
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Worker (used my real name and Town in the emails) and I am a Texas Works Advisor in Whereeveryouare, TX. As you most likely know by now, HHSC has been trying to push to get privatization for the issuance of State benefits (Food Stamps, Medicaid and TANF) for quite some time now, and have had limited success to say the least. The Feds have put a hold on any further rolling out of the system until HHSC can show that the system works.
HHSC is going to start a new Medicaid program on January 1st, called "The Women's Health Program." It is explained in Texas Works Bulletin 07-05 (http://www.dads.state.tx.us/handbooks/TexasWorks/res/Bulletins/index.htm) In theory, it sounds like it could benefit a lot of women in Texas, but there are a couple of issues that I am concerned with.
The program is designed to help women between the ages of 18 through 44 who meet the eligibility criteria. This limited benefit Medicaid program provides health screenings and risk assessment exams for preventable conditions. It also provides family planning counseling and contraceptives to eligible women. The problems that I have with the program have really started to bother me:
1.) It is not a full coverage Medicaid program. The women that would qualify for this program are probably not going to be able to get any treatment for problems that are found…It provides coverage for gynecological exams, related screenings, and birth control. If during any of the exams or screenings a problem is found, they have no medical coverage to pay for any related treatments or medications. They are probably over the income limit for adult Medicaid and TANF, or they would more than likely be on one of those programs already. It doesn't make sense to me to cover someone for a diagnosis, but then not let them be helped for treatment.
2.) This program is being worked through the TIERS system. It has already been shown that this system is flawed, and the government has put a hold on any further rolling out of this system. All of these women between 18 and 44 that apply and are certified for this Medicaid program are going to be in the TIERS system, which means that all associated cases that they have (Food Stamps, Children's Medicaid, etc.) are going to be converted to TIERS cases, along with all other people on those associated cases. In my estimation, in any given week probably 40% to 60% of the women applying for Adult Medicaid in my office are doing so to get birth control. Being the pessimist that I am, I am seeing this program as a ploy to get more people into the TIERS system, so that if and when the powers that be realize that the system is too flawed and cannot save the state any money, there will be too many clients in the "new" system to just trash it and return t the "old" system (which is still working fine.) Once a person is taken off of the SAVERR system and put into TIERS, they can't be put back (although there used to be a way to correct mistakes that would put clients back into the SAVERR system.)If I were a woman between the ages of 18 and 45, and there was a program that would help me to get birth control plus medical screenings for women's problems, I think I would jump at it. If I knew anything about the problems with the TIERS system, and knew that I was going to have to have all of my cases worked through that system for the rest of time, I might think twice before applying. Couldn't this program be implemented through the SAVERR system? They have created more complex programs through this system before.What I am trying to say is that the public (and our government) need to be informed COMPLETELY about this program before it is implemented. Something has to be done to keep all of these clients from being converted to the TIERS system, or there may be more problems than anyone wants to deal with.Thank you for your time, and I apologize that I am sending this so late in the game. I am not a political activist; I just kinda go with the flow of things…usually.
This whole privatization issue has bothered me from the start, mainly because of the way that things were done, not the privatization itself, and I guess I have just gotten fed up. It seems that since HHSC has been stopped from rolling out anywhere else, they are going to virtually roll out with numbers of clients instead of with actual offices in areas.This privatization is adversely affecting workers, clients and it seems the general public now.
Please feel free to forward, cut & paste, or otherwise get this letter to whomsoever you see fit to inform them of the issue. I would rather be kept anonymous for obvious reasons, but if you need or want to, you may use my name and address as a source.
The sender then received a response to his/her letter which - with permission - is being posted below:
Dear Mr./Mrs. (Worker):
Thank you for your information regarding The Woman's Health Program. I understand your concerns with this issue, and it is something our office will research further. I agree with you about the problems associated with the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS).
In a report issued by the Texas Comptroller' s office in October, TIERS was credited with having many difficulties, such as not processing dates correctly, not distinguishing between eligible and ineligible members in a household, and failing to determine residency status.Thank you again for the additional information, we appreciate it.
If you have any questions in the future, please do not hesitate to contact our office again.
Pete P. Gallego
Texas State Capitol - 4S.5(o) 512-463-0566(Second e-mail)
One thing I found interesting was that in the Q&A last week (was it last week?) someone had asked about this:
According to Texas Works Bulletin 07-05, applications for the Women’s Health Program are to be processed by special Texas Works Advisors in TIERS. Does this mean the rollout has resumed? This will increase the workload for the workers who are trained in TIERS. Is the state looking at providing training for this program?
Applications for the Women’s Health Program, which begins Jan. 1, will be processed in TIERS by a new HHSC eligibility unit created just for this program. The new unit has 34 staff, including 25 eligibility advisors, who will process all Women’s Health Program applications statewide. These employees are receiving training in TIERS and the new program and will be ready to process applications Jan. 1. The rollout of the new eligibility system remains on hold.
Of course, you realize the Q&A did NOT address the fact that once a client is certified for this program, all cases will convert to TIERS which means LOCAL ART WORKERS will be the ones having to process those applications and reviews. The "new unit" will only certify someone for the WHP, not have to deal with overflow that will occur when this client's other cases end up in TIERS.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Dig Deeper Texas has a post up (kinda late in posting this, sorry) regarding Albert Hawkin's involvement with the Texas Health Institute.
TEXAS STATE EMPLOYEES UNION
EMAIL BROADCAST UPDATE TO MEMBERS
VICTORY FOR TSEU, TEXANS
HHSC announces partial cancellation of IEES/Accenture project
"New Strategy" could be beginning of the end for failed experiment
HHSC will announce publically later today a "new strategy" on its call center experiment and the Accenture contract. In a tacit acknowledgment that the experiment is a failure, HHSC will
* Drop most plans for Accenture to do eligibility work. The HHSC announcement says that in the "rebalanced model" Accenture will scan the case documents into the system, run data-broker checks, and report the information to state staff, who will proceed with the case.
* The JSAP system put in place to decide who will get state jobs under the new system will be scrapped.
* 900 Texas Works positions that are currently considered temporary positions will be converted to regular full-time positions
* Cut the contract by $356 million (about 30%) and end it in 2008 instead of 2010
* Accenture will take over direct operation of CHIP eligibility from Maximus. (This is probably the result of Maximus' plans to reduce its participation in the IEES project after losing nearly $50 million on the "Texas Project" in 2006)
* No further roll-out with Accenture. The pilot in Travis, Hays, and Williamson counties will be resumed "after a rigorous readiness review" and "with a more limited role for the vendor". No other roll-out will be attempted before the contract ends in 2008.
* The HHSC announcement also says that TIERS will be rolled out statewide over about 18 months beginning in January 2007.
It's a good start. Now, cancel the contract, rebuild eligibility, look hard at TIERS.
The announced changes are a welcome sign that HHSC is moving in the right direction in managing this failed experiment, but the $543 million that will still go to Accenture will be wasted, and the time from now to the end of 2008 will be wasted trying to keep a failed experiment on life support.
* The contract with Accenture should be cancelled. Several provisions allow the state to cancel at any time. We have already paid Accenture over $120 million and there is no indication that the State of Texas will get any value from this contract: the remaining $543 million will be throwing good money after bad.
* We should start right away on rebuilding our capacity to provide human services eligibility to the people of Texas . Converting the temporary positions to regular status is a start, but we need to hire an additional 1000 or more staff, and rebuild our capacity to train them.
* Before we commit more resources or cases to TIERS, the whole system must be evaluated by competent staff who are not paid by HHSC. If the system can be fixed, it should be. If it cannot be fixed, it must be replaced
Contact: Stephanie Goodman or Ted Hughes, (512) 424-6951
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Saturday, December 16, 2006
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Re: Nov. 15 article, "Foster care plan under review":
We must stop blindly believing that anything done by government can be done better by the private, for-profit sector.
Some activities (prisons, medical care, public schools, military supply and enrollment for state benefits, as examples) are done better by government workers - at a lower cost.
Most work previously done by government and contracted to for-profit companies ends up costing more and providing less. Business owners spend less on training, wages and health coverage to increase profits.
Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, was "the only senator to attend" last week's meeting of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Assuming there are other committee members, where in bloody blue blazes were they?
It's taken well over a decade. Other states have been doing it for years. But next month Texas will embark on an efficient plan to save as much as $430 million – and incalculable social costs – by averting unintended, Medicaid-paid pregnancies and many illnesses related to them.
Early in December, the federal government gave verbal approval to Texas ' request for a Medicaid waiver to give extensive health screenings and birth control to 1.5 million uninsured women. Under Texas ' five-year demonstration project, Medicaid will waive some of its ordinary eligibility rules.
In Texas , a single mother with two children can't make more than $308 a month and be eligible for Medicaid. That's about 14 percent of the federal poverty line. The new waiver allows women 18-44, who are at 185 percent of the FPL or less, to get a wide range of health screenings, family planning information and birth control.
The savings, both monetary and societal, should be enormous. In 2002, Medicaid paid for a staggering 52 percent of all Texas births. Each routine delivery cost about $9,000. Now consider this: In 2003, according to state officials, 45 percent of the documented 328,311 live births here were reported as unintended.
What if Texas Medicaid hadn't had to finance so many unplanned deliveries? What if the low-income mothers who gave birth to those unplanned infants had had counseling, information about birth spacing and contraception to keep their families the size they desired?
Finally, what if more Texans could be born into families — and a community — better able to care for them, emotionally, physically and financially?
This was the vision the 2005 Legislature pursued when it finally authorized the state to seek the Medicaid waiver. Lawmakers had tried to pass previous versions of the bill since 1993 without success. During that time, more than a dozen other states successfully took advantage of this expanded health care opportunity.
Now Texas will be on board, starting in January. It's strictly a demonstration project: The federal government will only renew it if Texas can satisfactorily answer a set of evaluating criteria. Among them is the $430 million question: "To what extent did the waiver reduce the number of unintended pregnancies resulting in live births for women who are at, or below, 185 percent of the poverty level?" *Now, does everyone realize that these cases are going to be worked in TIERS statewide? That any woman that applies for this benefit will then become a "TIERS client"- no matter her location in the State? By doing so, any case she has from that point forward- Food Stamps, Medicaid for her children- will then also be in TIERS. Which means they get to call the "call centers" for certification. In other words, if 50% of our cases locally have a woman in that age group who will qualify for the new program will then be in that convoluted system? Good luck with that.
This will be a special challenge, as the Texas waiver does not include coverage of teens or emergency contraception, both of which could help the state meet its savings goal. Texas also has to keep the project budget neutral — for Washington and Texas both.
The equation shouldn't have taken Texas so many years to add up. By finally taking advantage of this chance to improve women's health care, however, the Legislature will save Texas millions in Medicaid costs. What can't be quantified will be the corresponding benefit: families with fewer health problems and with children who are wanted, cared for and better prepared for adulthood.
Valley Freedom Newspapers
AUSTIN — About 3,800 Texans, most of them children, were denied health care through Medicaid during the first three months of a new federal rule that requires proof of citizenship, according to an advocacy group for families.
Medicaid applicants since July 2006 have had to show proof they are U.S. citizens, whereas previously they had only to say they were citizens. The result has been that thousands of eligible citizens who qualify for Medicaid have been rejected because they can’t access their birth certificates in other states, or because state officials aren’t confirming their births in this one, said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Austin-based Texas Center for Public Policy Priorities.
The data Dunkelberg received from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission do not confirm how many of the 3,800 rejected applications came from illegal immigrants. She can’t say with certainty that none were illegal immigrants, but experience tells her the number was at most very low, she said.
“After 20 years of policy work on health, we have a hard time getting just families of non-U.S. citizens to come in and try to qualify,” Dunkelberg said. “There have never been large numbers of people coming in and trying to fake out the Medicaid system.”
Medicaid is the federal-state health care program for low-income adults and children. It serves 1.9 million children in Texas , including more than 200,000 children in the Rio Grande Valley , as of May 2006, the latest data available.
Officials at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission are looking into the numbers brought to light by the CPPP, said spokesman Ted Hughes. “I don’t know for sure yet whether we have such a number, where we could definitively say, ‘These people were denied because they couldn’t prove citizenship,’” he said.
Dunkelberg said the data she received from the state did not separate the 3,800 people by geographic region. It did show that two-thirds were children and 200 were infants younger than 1 year old. State rules require speedy enrollment of qualified babies born in Texas . Dunkelberg thinks many who were denied would have qualified but couldn’t have their birth certificates sent promptly from another state, she said.
Others may be victims of recent downsizing of state eligibility workers. State workers who are left processing applications may not know they can search Texas ’ electronic database of birth certificates to confirm whether a child was born here, Dunkelberg said.
State workers routinely check the database, Hughes said. “It’s a standard practice to check that election database assuming there’s no other document offered,” he said.
Dunkelberg said the state has dealt well with the federal policy, for the most part. “I think they’ve done about as good a job that a state can do,” Dunkelberg said. “I think it’s an unfortunate federal policy that wasn’t well thought-out.”
Friday, December 01, 2006
I've noticed a few things lately. Namely, the first "wave" of people we lost (late last year, after the "pink emails" came out) were due to the layoff notice. Now, we are losing people who have TRIED to stick around but the workload and expectations have become too much.
Anyone, as I've said before, on the outside thinks that this job is easy. They think that all we do is push some paper around and give away all the taxpayer money while we sit back and laugh at all the money we make doing nothing.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING could be further from the truth.
Sadly, the Agency that was DHS is gone- and the good work put out by said agency is gone as well. Quality is at an all time low. Let's not even talk about "timeliness". I'm sure if FNS came in and read a bunch of Food Stamp cases they'd find that most were probably wrong. Not because we all just don't care- but because we have people hired off the street, who have had 15% of the training that new hires USED to get and they are just flying by the seat of their pants. Tenured workers are getting loaded with more and more and more- and most of the TANF and it's just TOO. MUCH.
Clients are suffering. People are going WITHOUT basic needs because we don't have the staff to see anyone like we used to before. Our local office has 15% of the tenured workers we used to have. FIFTEEN PERCENT. The workload has NOT slowed down or stopped.
Sinking. Those who were trying to hold on are leaving now.
Actually, Albert is still lying. I did an open records request and have in
my possession the copy of the sole source justification dated 12/28/05 for over
1,000,000 dollars to the Texas Health Institute. I do not know why Al must
continue to lie, maybe because the truth in this case is not his friend.The sole
source justification essentially states--because we picked them to do it-- and
is unsigned.There is no RFP or award announcement that was ever made. It was a GIFT. A non-competitive retainer to pay this group to lobby for privatization.
The staff of this non-profit are mostly former staff to legislatos turned
lobbyist.BTW--the Chief Operating Officer at DSHS (Health) worked for Michael
Toomey(lobbyist for Philip Morris and Texans for Lawsuit Reform)and Maximus. In fact, he was in charge of the Maximus call-center project in California and came here to work during negotiations with Maximus for their contract for Texas call
centers at a 70,000 paycut. Interestingly, he worked here before as the CHIP
Bureau Chief, gave the CHIP eligibility contracts to Maximus, then went to
Maximus for a 75,000 raise. Cool.
Really, they must not know that at the Texas Hospital Association or they would surely have corrected their website. BTW--the Board of this group is mainly made up of THA members, including the THA president and several HOSPAC members. People who get what they want from Al Hawkins. Like Jim Springfield, THI Board Member, HOSPAC Board Member, Texas Association of Health Plans Board Member, and Perry Appointee to the Department of State Health Services Council. Also, as a matter of fact, the President of Valley Baptist Health System and beneficiary of an HHSC application to the Federal Government to restrict all non-emergency inpatient healthcare services for Medicaid recipients in Cameron County to his hospital system. This from Al-the big proponent of competition and choice?I have done my research really well. The stories will continue to be more incriminating--and accurate. There is alot of corruption needing to be exposed and it will continue to be until Al is gone, arrested, or exposed as dishonest and in collusion with lobbyists.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
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Audit's findings add to concerns of inadequate staffing at public assistance call centers
Mortgage rates near 39yr lows. $420,000 Mortgage for $1,399/mo - Calculate new house payment
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
When you google Brent Connett and see that he is a "policy analyst" for the
Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, it all is clear. One would
think that the definition of a conservative is a person who abhors waste of tax
dollars, yet here we have a "conservative" who will support a global profiteer
like Accenture even as tax dollars are drained away from the tax payers and from
the poor people we are supposed to be serving. It just shows how hypocritical
they are. We know Accenture is profiting even as they delay and incorrectly
providing federal benefits. It's just nuts.
I was checking some more on Brent Connett and see that his boss at the TCCRI is Tom Delay's indicted buddy John Colyandro. A little more looking and guess what? The TCCRI was instrumental in writing HB2292 for Arlene Wohlgemuth who was (I am not sure if she still is) on the board of directors for them. In 2003 she wrote a big old thank you to them for being so instrumental in providing the framework for 2292. So it makes sense that they get a little defensive when the facts get in the way of their little masterpiece.
I just thought that tidbit of info was interesting enough to post in case anyone missed the comments.
Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail beta.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Staying Focused on Our Work
Recent media stories have reported that gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell
has filed an ethics complaint against me. I want to assure you that any
allegations of corruption or misconduct are utterly without merit. Perhaps
the explanation of the circumstances below will establish some
When I became HHSC Commissioner in 2003, I was asked to assume the post
held by the two previous HHSC Commissioners on the board of the Texas
Health Institute. The Texas Health Institute is a non-profit organization
devoted to health policy research. I considered the position to be
honorary and agreed. I think that it is important to note that I have
never attended a meeting of the board, never participated in any board action
and never exercised any fiduciary duty on behalf of the board or the
Institute. I have received no financial benefit of any kind and have no
financial ties to the Institute. Unfortunately, because I never considered
this post as anything other than honorary, I overlooked it when I filed my
personal financial statement with the state Ethics Commission. I have
submitted a corrected statement.
While the Institute has received a competively awarded contract
through the Department of State Health Services, I had no prior knowledge of or
involvement in the procurement or contracting decision at State Health
While this is clearly a personal distraction, I do not want it to detract
from the work you perform for the people of this state. I remain focused on
taking care of the business of this agency, the HHS enterprise and the State of
Albert Hawkins — Nov. 6, 2006
Ken Welch, the funds management guru at the comptroller's office (the guy who actually does know where all the state's money is at any given time), left that agency for the Health and Human Services Commission, where he's the new budget and fiscal policy director.
Letters: No horror story on CHIP
THE Chronicle's gratuitous insults directed at the state's effort to modernize its social service eligibility system and the company that won the bid to help with that process, Accenture, should be retracted(see the Oct. 29 editorial "Horror story").
Ever since the overhauling of the system began, the Texas StateEmployees Union has led the effort to derail the program and to undo the social service reforms passed by the 78th Legislature. Part of its strategy has involved tarring the reputation of the firm that is helping the state implement the new system. And now the Chronicle appears to have bought into the misguided efforts of TSEU, referring to Accenture as "Bermuda-based," as if where it was incorporated has any bearing on its work for the state *doesn't it? Why would taxpaying Texans want a company based in BERMUDA (because they ARE based in Bermuda) taking care of the poor in Texas? Why else, other than make a profit on the poor, would Accenture even WANT this job?*. In fact, Accenture employs 27,000 people domestically, including more than 3,000 in Texas , and pays federal and state taxes. The editorial tossed a vile canard at the company by calling it "aspin-off of disgraced Arthur Andersen," even though Accenture was incorporated more than a decade before Andersen's implosion. In covering the eligibility system and the Children's Health InsuranceProgram, the Chronicle pushes anecdotal accounts of processing errors as the main cause of declines in the size of CHIP, when, in fact, the following are the leading reasons for CHIP disenroll-ment (based on October 2006 data available on the Health and Human Service's Website):
"45 percent didn't return renewal packet" *packets they never got? packets they received and turned in more than once? Hmmmm.*
"19 percent exceeded CHIP income limits"
"17 percent were Medicaid eligible"
"11 percent didn't pay the renewal fee" *renewal fees that clients never got a notice about until AFTER the fee was due and the case was already closed?*
"5 percent aged out of the program
The Chronicle would do well to leave off the wild allegations and join an essential program to bring Texas ' social services into the 21stcentury.
BRENT CONNETT Austin *Do you work for Accenture?*
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
STOP ANOTHER HIGH-TECH BOONDOGGLE: PRIVATIZATION OF STATE AGENCY I.T. THREATENS TAX DOLLARS, AGENCY EFFICIENCY, JOBS
Last year the Texas Legislature passed HB 1516, which authorizes the consolidation and privatization of the information technology (IT)/data center departments of 27 state agencies.
The plan will merge much of the IT functions ofthe agencies into one or two data centers, one of which must be located in SanAngelo, and then contract out operation of the data center(s) to a private contractor. This plan will be yet another high-tech boondoggle, like the Accenture/eligibility services and the Convergys/AccessHR projects that have wasted vast sums of money and reduced the ability of state agencies to fulfill their missions. Over 500 agency positions are due to be eliminated or transferred to a contractor under this proposal. A list of the agencies to be affected follows, below the list of DIR Board members. According to the current schedule, a contractor is to be selected in December2006. This date would make it much for difficult for the Texas Legislature to look at this plan again. Many suspect that the date was chosen to make this plan a "done deal" before the Legislature has a chance to reconsider it.
TSEU believes that our recent experience with high-tech outsourcing contracts should be a warning, and that this plan should be cancelled. At a bare minimum, the speeded-up implementation should be slowed down to allow the Texas Legislatureto reconsider the plan. Several legislators have expressed these concerns, and have suggested that, at a minimum the implementation schedule should be slowed downto give the Texas Legislature a chance to look at it again. Rep. Jim Pitts, of Waxahachie, is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
He would have the power to call for a slowdown in the roll-out of this plan.
TIME IS CRITICAL: DIR is scheduled to select a contractor in December.
TAKE ACTION TODAY to save tax dollars, quality services, and state jobs.
Slow down the headlong rush into another boondoggle that will put millions of tax dollars, and the operating efficiency of 27 state agencies, at risk.
1. Get involved. Contact Mike Gross at TSEU (firstname.lastname@example.org, or (512)448-4225)
2. Get state agency IT employees involved. Do you know a state worker in anagency IT/Data Services department? Have them contact TSEU to get involved
3. Call your state legislator ASAP. Ask him/her to: A. Contact Rep. Jim Pitts, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and askhim to call for a delay in the roll-out of this plan. B. Contact Governor Perry. Ask him to direct that the plan be delayed. C. Contact members of the DIR Board and ask them to call for a more thorough analysis of this project, and a delay in the roll-out schedule to allow legislative review.
For information on how to contact your legislator, go this link on the TSEUwebsite: http://www.cwa-tseu.org/hhsc_fdstmp_contact.html
DIR BOARD MEMBERS
William L. Transier, DIR Board Chair Co-Chief Executive Officer, DirectorEndeavour International Corporation, HoustonTerm: 02/01/2003 to 02/01/2009, Appointed by the Governor
The Honorable Charles Bacarisse Harris County District ClerkHarris County, Houston Term: 07/17/2006 to 02/01/2007, Appointed by the Governor
M. Adam Mahmood, Ph.D.Professor of Computer Information Systems & Business AdministrationThe University of Texas at El Paso, El PasoTerm: 02/01/2001 to 02/01/2007, Appointed by the Governor
The Honorable Debra McCartt MayorCity of AmarilloTerm: 02/01/2006 to 02/01/2011, Appointed by the Governor
P. Keith Morrow CIO & Vice President of Information Systems 7-Eleven, Inc., DallasTerm: 03/07/2005 to 02/01/2011, Appointed by the Governor
Cliff P. MountainManaging MemberAccent Capital, LLC, Austin Term: 02/01/2003 to 02/01/2009, Appointed by the Governor
Bill Wachel Principal/Owner The Wachel Group, DallasTerm: 02/01/2003 to 02/01/2009, Appointed by the Governor
Robert L. Cook Executive Director Texas Parks and Wildlife DepartmentTerm: 02/01/2005 to 02/01/2007, Ex officio
Brad Livingston Executive Director Texas Department of Criminal JusticeTerm: 02/01/2005 to 02/01/2007, Ex officio
Adam Jones Associate Commissioner for Operations and Fiscal Management Texas Education AgencyTerm: 02/01/2005 to 02/01/2007, Ex officio
AGENCIES TO BE AFFECTED
Department of Criminal Justice
Department of Information Services
Department of Licensing and Regulation
Department of Public SafetyGeneral Land OfficeDept. of Aging and Disability Services (DADS)Dept. of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS)
Dept. of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)
Dept. of State Health Services (DSHS)
Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC)
Office the Attorney General
Public Utility Commission
Secretary of State Alcoholic Beverage Commission
Building and Procurement Commission
Commission on Environmental Quality
Dept. of AgricultureDept. of Insurance
Dept. of Transportation
Texas Education Agency Higher Education
Coordinating Board Parks and Wildlife
Library and Archives Commission
Water Development Board
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Perry's health chief under fire-Hawkins will consider resigning from nonprofit board.
Edited to add this: Here is a post I did back in April- read the comment. Hmmmmm.
Later this week, I'm going to start reading the 171 pages of the audit- reporting what's there so you don't have to read the whole thing.....what I HAVE read so far is interesting....and there are things Accenture didn't do that the State Employees would have NEVER gotten away with.... of course.
In case you missed the link to the audit findings...you can find them here: Strayhorn Audit.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Houston Chronicle Article
News from Lufkin
"Off the Kuff" has a great write-up regarding the audit- go HERE to read about it.
Of course, don't forget to check CAPITOL ANNEX everyday- he has great information about news around the state, including news regarding HHSC.....
Here is a link that is inside the report also, that will take you to 171 pages of PDF files showing her actual letter about what is going on with Accenture....
So, what do you think happens next?
Thursday, October 19, 2006
1- has everyone heard about the new 2-1-1 menu options? Now, if you are a TIERS client (and there are many statewide) you can't call 211 unless you are in Travis or Hayes Counties. You are referred to your local office. Problem with that is every office doesn't have a worker/clerk available to do TIERS inquiry. So, if the client comes in for help about their case, and it's an office WITHOUT an ART worker, then what? Figures.
2- how is that jsap job placement going for everyone? How about AccessHR? Had any problems with leave? Savings bonds? If you haven't - consider yourselves lucky. This privatization is GREAT (/sarcasm)
3- have you workers been told that you surely can work weekends and late if you have to in order to stay somewhat caught up? Is this an option that is given to you more as a demand rather than something to help you out? Wow- I guess TPTB think we don't have households to take care of or kids to care for.
4- if you are a client, or someone who helps clients (Advocacy Inc and San Antonio Food Bank!)- please enourage them to contact FNS. FNS regulates the Food Stamp Program. Having to wait 40-50 days is against policy. Problem is, it's not the fault of local office staff, but rather this scheme to line someone's pockets through contracts....local office staff are doing all they know to do to do everything as fast as possible. But interview 15-20 clients per day, 4-5 days per week leaves little to no time to finish cases UNLESS that worker wants to work Saturday AND Sunday. This misconception that the public has that all we do is 'push a few buttons' to make it happen isn't so. I wish it were that easy. I'd encourage all clients to show up for office appointments rather that do by phone. Yes, it can be inconvenient- but I can assure you that a client that shows up **proof in hand** will get finished THE SAME DAY THEY ARE INTERVIEWED in most cases. Otherwise, it's more waiting.
5- Lead times are out of control. Management of lead times has become unrealistic. The offices are not staffed enough to maintain the 'staus quo' and acceptable lead times.
Clients are going without, employees are working in an unorganized chaos- while Albert Hawkins touts that we have a stable workforce. I'd love to see Mr. Hawkins come on in and sit in a lobby one day. These clients are FURIOUS at the long waits for appointments, the inability to get through to their workers on the phone (because we are all on phone interviews) and having to wait to get questions answered.
Oh, and "Hi!" Accenture (I know y'all still read here!)...got any insight? Y'all all caught up over there?
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Do you Yahoo!?
Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Do you Yahoo!?
Get on board. You're invited to try the new Yahoo! Mail.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Friday, August 25, 2006
Get your own web address for just $1.99/1st yr. We'll help. Yahoo! Small Business.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Get your email and more, right on the new Yahoo.com
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I hate to give DabJab any traffic- but you have to read this article and the comments that are there as well.......HERE is where you'll go for that.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
We have offices working under 50% staffing. We have offices around the state with NO clerical support- workers are having to bear this. We have offices where there isn't anyone available to do the most mundane tasks- opening and distributing mail (for example)...and yet, it's almost as though the intent is to make the "State Employees" be the bad guys. Afterall, aren't we- the "state employees" the ones who are against Accenture/TAA just because we are "disgruntled" and angry we are losing our jobs? So what better way to "show" everyone why we need a "new system" than to have the local offices tank, little by little, and become inefficient and unable to handle the workload.
Is that what all this is?
Do you want to guest blog? Email me what you would like posted...and I'll post it. It's all anonymous, but if you want to put where you are- what area- that's fine.
Hang in there guys.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
By Corrie MacLaggan
Friday, August 11, 2006
When Amanda Morris started working at a private office that enrolls Texans in public assistance, she was trained to enter information into a computer about people who want to apply for benefits.
But she immediately found that most cases didn't involve signups. Clients needed to renew benefits, make changes to their accounts or update their address.
Problems at the Texas Access Alliance may have affected public assistance recipients such as Diana Acosta, an Austin mother of two. Acosta, 43, who is on disability and does not have a job, said she received her food stamps two weeks late one month and her children were not enrolled in Medicaid for three months because TAA representatives said they did not have paperwork she had sent repeatedly.
And she didn't know how to do that.
"I trained for three weeks and was put onto the floor with about 2 percent knowledge of how to do my job," said Morris, 21, who works for a temp agency and has been on assignment since March with the San Antonio office of state contractor Texas Access Alliance.
Problems with worker training are one of the reasons the state has indefinitely delayed statewide rollout of that contractor's new call-in system to enroll Texans in food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Morris' account sheds more light on the problems. A former Texas Access Alliance employee in San Antonio, who asked that her name not be used because it might affect her current job, said Morris' story matches her experience.
The state is paying more than $800 million over five years to the Texas Access Alliance, a consortium of private companies led by Accenture LLP, for the system, which has been in a pilot stage in Travis and Hays counties since January. The privatization was intended to save the state money.
Since the contractor took over, benefits recipients have reported getting inexplicably dropped from public assistance, talking to customer service representatives who couldn't answer their questions and being asked for information they'd already provided.
In response, the private group has retrained its call center employees and overhauled training for new hires, spokeswoman Mindy Brown said this week. Texas Access Alliance "has turned a major corner," she said.
"Our training is intensive and depends on each employee's role," Brown said. "If an employee feels they need additional training to do their job correctly, all they need to do is to speak with their supervisor and additional instruction can be arranged."
Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said the reports of improved quality is a positive sign but that the state has not yet evaluated that. "We'll measure the success of the training by how well the call-center representatives respond to client questions and concerns," she said.
Morris, for one, said training sessions she's attended recently were just as ineffective as the original.
She admits she's bitter about her job: her boyfriend was one of several dozen people laid off from the San Antonio office earlier this summer, and she wishes she earned more than her $12-per-hour salary. But she says that as a former recipient of food stamps and Medicaid, she's concerned about the experiences of the 3 million Texans who receive public assistance.
"You have no idea how (messed) up this is getting," said Morris, who works with applications and renewals but does not take calls. "There's misorganization regarding documents. Information gets linked incorrectly or lost altogether."
For example, Morris said she recently found that a public assistance recipient had submitted an address change. But an employee flagged the file to indicate a change of state residency, instead. And another employee who handled the case didn't catch the error. So the family was sent a letter asking about their Texas residency, Morris said.
Morris attributes problems like this to a lack of training and co-workers who are "purposely lazy." In May, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins announced that no new applications will be processed in the privately run San Antonio call center until the contractor improves.
Alton Martin, CEO of Customer Operations Performance Center, Inc., a New York-based call-center consultant, said the training problems aren't surprising.
When he asks call-center representatives at various sites whether they felt ready for their job, "about half the time they'll say training was really bad or nonexistent or not appropriate to the task."
Martin, whose company is not working with the Texas contract but has worked with Accenture on other projects, said that call center quality issues often stem from the contract.
"Maybe the state wasn't rigorous enough," said Martin, who works in Austin. "Lots of times people want to throw the vendor under the bus . . . (But) if you want a fast car, ask for a fast car."
Goodman, though, said the state has set a high bar and is doing its own quality checks.
The private call centers — located in San Antonio, Austin, Midland and Athens — are expected to replace some state offices where Texans sign up for public assistance. The new system gives Texans more ways to apply for public assistance — mail, fax, Internet and phone — as well as in person.
Mary Katherine Stout of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which advocates for limited government, said those who argue for the state to resume public assistance enrollment overlook problems with the outdated state system.
She recently visited a state benefits office in Fort Worth and found that despite having appointments, Texans were waiting hours. One public assistance recipient told Stout she has a rule of thumb for visiting the state office: pack a lunch.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Special to the Austin American-Statesman
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