Thursday, May 11, 2006

Carlos Guerra: Health and Human Services only giving call centers the CHIPs

I must say that this is one of the BEST articles I've seen thus far about the fiasco that is HHSC right now.

THE BEST.~~~hhscemployee.

Carlos Guerra: Health and Human Services only giving call centers the CHIPs

By Carlos Guerra San Antonio Express-News

Word spread quickly on Wednesday that a Texas Health and Human Services Commission directive was pulling most of the work that Accenture-run call centers were supposed to do to replace 2,900 state workers and shutter about one-third of the agency's field offices."The (state's) benefits offices will complete and process Food Stamps, Adult Medicaid, Children's Medicaid and Medicaid Eligibility for Elderly and People with Disabilities," it orders. "All work will be completed end to end by state staff." (Emphasis mine.)

As I was wading through the 13-page memo, sent by a state worker who like most of his or her colleagues must remain unnamed after being warned against talking to reporters, another e-mail arrived.

"Don't you love it when you're right and ahead of everyone else?" it said.

It hasn't been difficult.

In truth, since I first wrote about House Bill 2292 — a 2003 bill that sought to replace state workers and field offices with contractor-run call centers and made social-service programs harder to get — I have received more than 1,000 e-mails about it.

A few were mean-spirited communiqués, including some from self-proclaimed Christians who either never learned or forgot the biblical admonitions to care for the sick, give water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, clothe the naked and give shelter to the homeless, among other things.Most calls, letters and e-mails, however, were from people whose dignity will be shattered — or who may not survive — if they lose their Medicaid or Child Health Insurance Program coverage, Temporary Aid to Needy Families or Food Stamps.

And this, my friends, is what is has ALWAYS been about. We are the HUMAN in HUMAN services. We service HUMAN BEINGS. No one- NOT ONE PERSON- has the right to judge another based on what services that person may or may not be getting. No one has the right unless they themselves have had those same shoes on. There are families out there- RIGHT NOW- suffering needlessly because it seemed to 'easy' to have a 'call center' do our work. Oh! They can call from home- nevermind the fact that a good many of our clients don't have a phone- and if they did before- they don't now because whatever they WERE paying for the phone is now going to groceries since they are not receiving their benefits. There are kids who are not getting their health care because they have no Medicaid. I love how the Religious Right can look down their nose at those in need, when I rest assured that the God "I" believe in would never.

Many find it easy to dismiss them as malingerers and ne'er-do-wells eager to avoid work and live on the dole. But virtually all of them are children of working-poor families — most often, families headed by single mothers — and seniors who wore out their bodies laboring for outfits that never provided benefits or pensions. Others are people with disabilities, many of whom fantasize about working hard.

Absolutely. Many have this 'myth' about welfare anyway- which is why all the goings on at HHSC are not 'big news' to anyone other than us, the reps, and the clients. I've said in another post that Joe Public could care less that someone is or is not getting their food stamps. I have worked in this system long enough- and interviewed enough families- to know that what is written is true- it is most often working poor families that get and receive the most help. They work for $5.15 an hour at a job with no benefits, no retirement, no hope for more (I've interviewed people who have been at the SAME job for YEARS and STILL make the same as they did when they started)....they are ONLY trying to keep the rent paid and the lights on. These aren't people who take their kids on vacation every year, or can dip into savings for that big purchase. No, these are people who have no savings, have no money other than what they make to pay the bills. I've been in a good number of homes via homevisits- homes that I would NEVER live in- and I know for a fact- first hand- that were it not for the help they were getting, they would NOT be eating properly. Period. What does anyone think happens to a kid who doesn't get dinner? Think that child is going to be the perfect student at school? Probably not. While Joe Blow's son couldn't figure out which Abercrombie shirt to wear, the clients we serve have children who wake up with a hungry stomach.

Along the way, I also received a steady stream of communiqués from Texas Health and Human Services workers who care deeply enough about their clients — ahem, "customers," as the agency prefers they be called — and who, like many teachers, eschew higher-paying jobs to do the work they love.

Their tips have been invaluable.

Most recently, the missives have started coming from employees of the call and computer centers at the heart the $899 million state contract awarded to Bermuda-based Accenture LLC for the call centers that will now have only CHIP applications to mess up."Thank you for holding Accenture's feet to the fire," one wrote Wednesday. "I am an employee assigned at the (call center) in San Antonio and I cannot believe the lack of planning, and just plain screw-ups of the past few months that I have seen. Everything changes, and we are reminded that 'flexibility is key to this job.'"

It has not been uncommon for one procedure to be stated at the beginning of the day and change by noon," the $8-per-hour worker wrote. "Any business with such a plan of execution would fail within months. I often ask myself: How much more flexible must these dropped clients be forced to be without the benefits they need?"

Accenture has no business being the the business of profiting off the backs of the poor. Hell, even their own employees can see this for the farce it is (wonder how many of THEM are actually clients and see the mess they will soon be in if this doesn't get fixed- NOW.)

I have been asking that for months.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't you just love Carlos Guerra? He's my hero.