Thursday, May 25, 2006

Insulting

This email came out (after being forwarded quite a bit) to staff today. To say that it offends me is an understatement and proof that those on the 'outside' of local offices really have no idea at all what is actually going on in the local offices. As always, my comments are in red.



-----Original Message-----
From: Annie Landmann_HC [mailto:Annie.Landmann_HC@house.state.tx.us]
Sent: Monday, May 15, 2006 3:36 PM
To: anne.heiligenstein@hhsc.state.tx.us; Muth,Stephanie
Cc: Katherine Yoder
Subject: Eligibility System Concern

Commissioner Heiligenstein,

I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation for the eligibility oversight synopsis that I received by e-mail this afternoon. It is very encouraging, as always, to know that HHSC is reviewing better performance and system improvements and keeping us continually informed.

*it is encouraging, yes- that the bad press that HHSC gets is causing them to review better performance and system improvements, but for many local offices- this is too little, too late.*

With that said, I have been getting some discouraging feedback regarding the local offices. (I'm willing to bet a paycheck it's not as much discouraging feedback that we've gotten regarding TAA.) Many constituents have called my office in frustration, criticizing the application process for Medicaid and food stamps, whether it be their first time applying or when filing for an extension. (Before the call centers, did you get those calls? I doubt it.) The criticism is one and the same; the client walks into the local office to apply, or file an extension, or make an appointment, etc. and they are turned away, given a pamphlet, and told to call 2-1-1 . (*local office staff has been DIRECTED to tell clients to call 2-1-1 if they are TIERS. They also call 2-1-1 if they want referral services for their community) Not only is this becoming a redundant complaint in the committee office, but this was briefly discussed as a rising problem among my committee members' staff at a recent meeting as well. The call centers were made to serve clients as a convenient and uncomplicated option in the application process. (*it is not the local office staff's fault that we are now severly short staffed and that the call centers are anything BUT convenient and uncomplicated- why are state staff being blamed?) We were told, however, that if the client chooses to continue to go to the local office and speak with state staff, they can, and should never be turned away. (*this works only if there is staff in the local office who can help them. We are not on TIERS- and while we do have ART workers in the local offices that we can go to for questions, etc when clients come into the office, if they direct staff to have the client call 2-1-1, then what else are we supposed to do? Make up some information for the client so they won't call their representatives? This is, unfortunately, the cost of trying to rush to privatization without the concept being tested in a highly controlled environment before rolling out.)

It seems that staff in the local offices are under a false impression that they aren't in the business of assisting clients anymore. (This is the most offensive thing I've read or heard in a long while. Staff in local offices are doing all they can with very limited resources to help the clients- but again, there is only so much that we can do. To actually say outloud that it is PRESUMED that local staff believe they aren't in the business of assisting clients is outrageous and insulting. I'm sorry Ms. Landmann, but you don't speak for me, and cannot presume to know what my impressions are. Nor, I believe, can you speak for anyone else that is working in a local office. Mind you, many local offices are running at 50% of the staff they had just 6 months ago, they are being asked to work evenings and weekends just to stay caught up. They are being asked to do all jobs- be a worker, be a clerk, be a supervisor, whatever- and for anyone on the 'outside' to PRESUME to know what local staff is thinking is BEYOND good reason. This is the precise reason people are leaving. No support.) There is a common misconception among staff and we are hearing it through your frustrated clients. Whatever the resolution may be, it needs to be made quickly. Because of your efforts to fix the glitches in the new eligibility system, I know you are as truly concerned as we are when we hear that "clients" are being turned away when they should be helped. (Did anything go out to TAA when THEY were refusing to help clients on the phone? Were they getting a good stern email telling THEM to fix the problem quickly when THEY were giving out wrong information, and telling clients that they needed to get help at the local offices, when THEY are being paid to help them? I doubt it. Again, let's put it all back on those State Employees that are not only holding it together to do THEIR jobs, but are now also in a position of having to work the returned applications from TAA. Double work, no double pay, and THIS is what we get in return?)

Thank you for your attention in this matter and please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.


Sincerely,

Annie Landmann

Chief Clerk
House Committee on Human Services

Got the following in comments after this was posted, and I felt like it was worthy of being posted on the main blog:

This just goes to show that we, as dedicated workers, need to strive to do our best to take up the slack from the TAA and Hawkins' sneaky ways. They send work back to the local offices that is three months old, and then we get the bad stats. They overload already overworked workers with cases where the client is already frustrated, and we get the complaints on us, not them. Ms Landman was probably directed to send this e-mail out as the beginning of another spin by Hawkins and his crew. I can read it now...."More calls recieved complaining about local offices now that they are handling the cases..." You can bet somebody is keeping tabs on all the calls that are coming in now. Hawkins and Accenture aren't going to give up without a fight, and it'll probably get dirty(er)Before the dust settles.If we want to keep our jobs, and serve our clients the way we were, we are going to have to really be on our toes, and try to get the job done now. Any failure in the old system will be exploited by "them"

6 comments:

Fr. John Whiteford said...

It's too bad that you and the folks at HHSC Survivalist weren't blogging about 2 or 3 years ago. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Oh this just burns me up! We have NEVER forgotten that we are in the business of assisting people!! If we're not as effective at that as we used to be it's because our hands have been tied by (and the blame lies with) Hawkins and Co. I am absolutely furious about this.

Still wondering in S. TX said...

This just goes to show that we, as dedicated workers, need to strive to do our best to take up the slack from the TAA and Hawkins' sneaky ways. They send work back to the local offices that is three months old, and then we get the bad stats. They overload already overworked workers with cases where the client is already frustrated, and we get the complaints on us, not them. Ms Landman was probably directed to send this e-mail out as the beginning of another spin by Hawkins and his crew. I can read it now...."More calls recieved complaining about local offices now that they are handling the cases..." You can bet somebody is keeping tabs on all the calls that are coming in now. Hawkins and Accenture aren't going to give up without a fight, and it'll probably get diry(er)Before the dust settles.
If we want to keep our jobs, and serve our clients the way we were, we are going to have to really be on our toes, and try to get the job done now. Any failure in the old system will be exploited by "them"

hhscsurvivalist said...

Seems to me that we were referring clients to 211 on HHSC's instructions! I'll bet I still have copies of those emails!

How dare they blame the local offices for the F***ups at the call centers!

Anonymous said...

I know that WE were certainly instructed to have clients call 211 for ALL TIERS issues.

I know that local offices that do not have ART staff on site, the clients are STILL being referred to 211.

This isn't a directive that the caseworkers and clerks in the local offices came up with themselves, these were instructions given to US.

Anonymous said...

This whole idea was a ruse from the beginning, enacted by demagogues such as Arlene Wohlgemouth and Tom Craddick. HHSC programs have always been extremely efficiently administered--less than 5% administrative costs when compared to the value of the benefits issued.

The savings aren't on the staff side, then. The real savings are on the benefits. So, how do you get those savings? Why, you reduce the numbers of people who receive benefits, of course.

Remember all the talk from Hawkins about how all this money we were going to save via call centers and privatization was going to be plowed back into additional and improved services? It was a lie then and it's a lie now. There is zero chance of that happening, even if the mythical savings were being achieved.

The "study" that HHSC did that determined that private call centers would be cheaper was another lie. They knew the answer they wanted to get and set about figuring out a way to get that answer. They lowballed the costs of privatizing. They made wildly false assumptions about how few state staff would be needed.

They have repeatedly made false projections of how quickly TIERS and call centers could be implemented, thereby jacking up the supposed savings.

These guys have got themselves in one big jam now. They can't roll out the call center model because it is fatally flawed, at least until they get the new front end to TIERS in place and actually working (among many other things). They can't roll out TIERS without the call centers because TIERS simply isn't ready and because it takes longer to work a case in TIERS than it takes to work it in GWS/SAVERR. Compounding this problem, thanks to their brillaint handling of the whole situation, there aren't enough state staff left to work cases in TIERS.