Thursday, April 27, 2006

State won't do CHIP Inquiry

State won't do CHIP inquiry
Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
El Paso Times
AUSTIN -- The state auditor rejected an appeal last week from state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, to investigate why thousands of Texas children are dropping from a state health insurance program.
Shapleigh sent a letter to State Auditor John Keel requesting an investigation into how the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Texas Access Alliance are operating the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Since November, more than 2,000 El Paso children have fallen from CHIP, a health-care program for families with incomes too high for Medicaid and too low to afford private insurance. State wide, almost 30,000 children have dropped out of the program.
"In El Paso, which is the most uninsured large city in the nation, this is especially intolerable," Shapleigh said in the letter.
In a response sent Friday to Shapleigh, Keel said the investigation was not part of his agen cy's 2006 audit plan and he did not have the resources to initiate a review. He said the program would be considered for possible investigation next year.
Some legislators and CHIP advocates have linked falling enrollment to a company the state hired to process program applications. As part of an $899 million state contract with Bermuda-based outsourcing giant Accenture, their subsidiary Texas Access Alliance took over the processing job late last year.
Shapleigh said the state auditor is best positioned to examine possible flaws in the contract and that he would ask other legislators to join his call for an investigation.
"I am very disappointed that state government is not willing to investigate the rank incompetence of the contractor," Shapleigh said.
Health commission officials have defended Texas Access Alliance's CHIP work and said the declining enrollment is more likely due to changes in eligibility requirements, including increased income documentation.
The commission is conducting a survey of about 1,800 families whose children dropped from the program recently.
Early survey results released by the commission last week indicate that while about 90 percent of 280 families found re-enrollment materials easy to understand, about 60 percent were told after submitting their application that more materials were needed.
Results from the full survey are expected next month.
"This snapshot tells us that while families know they need to renew their coverage, we can do a better job of helping them understand exactly what documentation is needed," Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins said in a written statement.

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