Monday, May 22, 2006

Notice from the Union


Stop throwing good money after bad; fire Accenture,
rebuild health and human services at the local level

Austin- The Texas State Employees Union today called on the state Health and Human Services Commission to fire Accenture and to take immediate action rebuild the state's health and human service delivery network that has deteriorated so badly since HHSC awarded the $899 million call center contract to the Bermuda-based company.

The union made this call after the San Antonio Express News published an article by Guillermo Garcia today saying that HHSC has paid Accenture $91 million even though the agency admits that "the [call center] program is fraught with operational problems."

"HHSC should stop throwing good money after bad," said Mike Gross, TSEU vice-president. "The conservative and prudent thing to do would be to fire Accenture then use the money budgeted for the contract to improve services at the local level."

Because Accenture was performing so poorly, HHSC on May 10 returned most of the work that Accenture was doing back to state employees and announced that 1000 eligibility workers who had received layoff notices would keep their jobs.

Prior to May 10, thousands of cases were backlogged, some food stamp applications were taking three to four months to process, and frustrated clients were complaining to their legislators. During the four months that Accenture was processing CHIP and Medicaid applications, enrollment in these programs dropped substantially. In April CHIP enrollment dropped below 300,000 for the first time since 2001.

"HHSC made a bad decision when it chose to privatize services," said Gross. "It redeemed itself somewhat this month when it returned most of the work that Accenture was doing to state employees."

But HHSC's ability to deliver services is still hampered by its privatization decision. About 1000 employees who once worked in local eligibility offices have quit since July when HHSC awarded the call center contract to Accenture.

As a result many local offices are short staffed. One Houston office that used to have 40 employees is now down to 18 full-time staff. To make matters worse, state employees in local offices are working Accenture's backlog as well as their own caseload.

"HHSC should take the money that it planned to spend on the Accenture contract and re-invest it in its community-based offices," Gross said. "Community-based offices are where people can get face-to-face assistance from knowledgeable, professional state eligibility employees. You can't get the same kind of help from a faceless, call center operator."

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