Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Layoffs in San Antonio

Dozens lose jobs at Texas Access Alliance in San Antonio Group of private companies has state contract for controversial new system to help Texans sign up for public assistance
By Corrie MacLaggan <>
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Several dozen San Antonio employees of a private contractor hired by the state to help Texans apply for public assistance lost their jobs Friday, according to an internal memo obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.

It was the latest development in the saga of a problem-plagued new system for determining people's eligibility for food stamps and Medicaid. The system launched its pilot phase in Travis and Hays counties in January. Those who lost their jobs did not meet performance standards, said Jill Angelo, a spokeswoman for the Texas Access Alliance, the group of companies that won the state contract. "We continue to work on performance, making changes to the pilot program at the state's direction," she said. "That's the point of a pilot — to fix whatever issues the program has." Angelo confirmed that 15 full-time Maximus Inc. employees and some temporary employees lost their jobs. She would not say how many temporary employees were affected; the internal memo says 59. The workers were responsible for compiling documents for cases. The temporary employees were in a 90-day probation period; had they met performance standards, they would have been hired, Angelo said.

The move comes three months after state officials announced that they were delaying statewide rollout of the new eligibility system, citing problems with employee training and technical concerns. The system is costing the state $899 million over five years. In May, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins announced that no new cases will be processed in the San Antonio Texas Access Alliance office until the contractor improves the work there. He also canceled plans to lay off 1,000 state workers, though other jobs had already been eliminated. Mike Gross, vice president of the 12,000-member Texas State Employees Union and a critic of the privatization plan, said that perhaps the alliance has learned that relatively low-paid, low-skilled workers can't replace experienced state employees. "The whole project is obviously in trouble," Gross said. "This golden opportunity to make a lot of profit for not much work is not panning out."

In a Friday afternoon e-mail to Texas Access Alliance managers, Maximus Human Resources Director Shar Griffin wrote that managers had reviewed employee performance "in order to ensure the highest quality work for the citizens" of Texas. "Based upon this review, we made the decision to not extend the employment of some of the staff in San Antonio who failed to meet this performance criteria," she wrote. "This means that going forward, San Antonio site will be a smaller organization than yesterday." There are 478 employees at the San Antonio office, Angelo said. Lateesha Guyden was one of those who got a pink slip. Guyden, a single mother of four, had worked full time for Maximus as a supervisor in San Antonio since December. Before that, she depended on public assistance. "I was so grateful to receive that job," said Guyden, 32. Now, she says, she'll probably request public assistance again.

The new eligibility system involves closing some offices where people apply for public assistance and replacing them with call centers managed by the alliance, which includes Accenture LLP and Maximus. State officials last year projected that Texas would save $646 million over five years but now aren't sure what it will save. Maximus announced Tuesday that it signed an amendment to its five-year contract with the Texas Access Alliance and expects to earn $320 million, about 14 percent less than planned. After call centers started taking applications in the pilot area in January, applicants encountered long wait times and spoke to representatives who couldn't answer their questions. Since April, worker training has improved and hold times have been reduced, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the commission. State officials are concerned about technical problems. It may be months before the system is rolled out statewide.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Lead times

As as been discussed by me, as well as those who have left comments- leadtimes have gotten way out of hand.

For those not 'in the know' who may happen upon this site- "Lead time" is the time from an application file date to the date the client is finally scheduled for an interview. Historically, Food Stamp applications HAD TO BE SCHEDULED WITHIN 20 DAYS. This left 10 days for the client to provide any other information (they must be given 10 days)- and still have the case completed by the Federally Mandated timeframe expectation of 30 days.

If offices are understaffed and there aren't enough "appointment slots" to fill in applications within 20 days- anytime after that puts the application at risk of being delinquent no matter what. What people 'on the outside' don't understand is if the State of Texas is delinquent on TOO MANY applications for Food Stamps- the FNS (Food and Nutrition Services) has the liberty to SANCTION the State for not meeting the Federal Requirements.

Should this happen- in light of the fact that FNS is refusing to fund the program in Texas due to the rush to go into this 'system' before FNS even approved of it...this could potentially cost Texas even more - in the Millions- money that comes from the State taxpayer coffers.

Many local offices- STATEWIDE- have lost so many people that the applications are snowballing. Those who see this from the other side think that this problem is only contained in Travis and Hayes counties- but it is not. Anytime you have employees get an email telling them that they will not have a position in the 'new system' they are going to jump ship. The only folks that have stayed around even though they don't have a position are those trying to 'stick it out' and those who feel like they have no choice.

The clients are suffering. The local offices are suffering. Those in 'charge' see us, in the local offices, getting the work done "somehow" and think it's o.k. Those in 'charge' have the luxury of issuing directives to 'get the job done'. Yet, they are unaware that just like you can't get blood out of a turnip- you can't take an office that used to see upwards of 250 appointments per day with 25 workers do those same appointments with 10. It is NOT POSSIBLE. And yet, this is what is expected.

Workers are being burned out. The workers that are being burned out, unfortunately, are the tenured people the most. We carry most of the burden. Are we really the ones the State can afford to lose?

MAXIMUS Provides Preliminary Third Quarter Results and Amends Integrated Eligibility Subcontract

You can find the article HERE.

RESTON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 26, 2006--MAXIMUS (NYSE:MMS), a leading provider of government services, announced today that it has signed an amendment to its subcontract with Accenture as part of the Texas ACCESS Alliance (TAA). The TAA provides services under the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's Integrated Eligibility and Enrollment program. As previously disclosed, the Company commenced discussions with Accenture related to the original subcontract agreement on May 3, 2006. The subcontract was amended and responsibilities were realigned to help improve operational readiness and address technical challenges.

Under terms of the amended subcontract, Accenture and MAXIMUS have modified the operational scope. As a result:

-- MAXIMUS will retain responsibility and continue to operate the Children's Health Insurance Program, enrollment broker operations, application processing for Children's Medicaid, and the end-state Integrated Eligibility technology front-end.

-- Accenture will now assume operational responsibility for certain functions previously performed by MAXIMUS including Complaints and Appeals and defined technology development for the interim technology solution.

-- Accenture will provide additional management and operational assistance to MAXIMUS with respect to certain defined areas of MAXIMUS' responsibility and will provide support to MAXIMUS in other functions where MAXIMUS is retaining responsibility including application processing, employee training, and call center and image processing.

MAXIMUS now projects revenue of approximately $320 million over the life of the five-year contract which commenced July 1, 2005, a reduction of approximately 14%. Additionally, the Company estimates that it will incur $45 million to $50 million of pre-tax losses on this project during the second half of fiscal 2006. The Company expects to incur approximately $35 million to $38 million of these pre-tax losses in its third fiscal quarter, of which approximately $18 million is attributable to impairment of deferred contract costs. As a result of the amended subcontract and based on currently available information, the Company expects to report a net loss of approximately ($0.55) to ($0.60) per diluted share for the third fiscal quarter and net profit of $0.57 to $0.67 per diluted share for the full fiscal year.

The projected loss from the Texas contract relates principally to cost overruns on the Integrated Eligibility component of the program due to increased levels of staffing and additional costs arising from the amended subcontract. At the present time, the financial impact of the Texas contract beyond fiscal 2006 is not certain and ultimately depends on many factors. While MAXIMUS expects to incur losses in fiscal 2007 on this contract, the Company expects the fiscal 2007 contract losses to decline from projected 2006 levels.

The Company will be finalizing its quarterly financial results in the coming weeks and actual reported results for the period may differ from anticipated results based on a number of factors including the timing of license revenue and contingency-based work as well as actual costs related to the amended Texas agreement.

Richard Montoni, Chief Executive Officer, stated, "In what we believe to be in the best long-term interest of shareholders, MAXIMUS remains committed to delivering quality services to Texans as an integral part of the Texas ACCESS Alliance. We are working with Accenture to deliver the contracted services to the State. MAXIMUS is striving to reach the intended vision for this program within the framework of getting this project to breakeven in future periods. While many challenges remain, we have successfully launched three major functions including the Children's Health Insurance Program, enrollment broker services, and processing new applications for Children's Medicaid."

The Company is aggressively working to optimize current operations and grow the base business, while at the same time exploring alternatives to increase shareholder value, including dispositions of non-core practices, smaller acquisitions, as well as strategic business combinations.

The Company will host a conference call on Tuesday, June 27, 2006, at 8:30 A.M. ET to discuss today's announcement. The call is open to the public and can be accessed via webcast under the Investor Relations page of the Company's website at or by calling: 888-850-5066(Domestic)/206-315-8587 (International)
conference code: 55708
For those unable to listen to the live call, a replay will be
available until July 7, 2006. Callers can access the replay by
Replay: 800-207-7077 or 314-255-1301
PIN: 4851

The Company will report full financial results for the third quarter and provide an updated outlook for fiscal 2006 on August 2nd.

MAXIMUS is one of America's leading government services companies devoted to providing program management, consulting and information technology services. The Company has more than 5,200 employees located in more than 280 offices in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 MAXIMUS was selected by Forbes Magazine as one of the Best 200 Small Companies in America for that year. MAXIMUS was selected by Business Week Magazine as one of the 100 Best Hot Growth Small Companies in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Additionally, MAXIMUS is included in the Russell 2000 Index and the S&P SmallCap 600 Index.

Statements that are not historical facts, including statements about the Company's confidence and strategies and the Company's expectations about revenues, results of operations, profitability, future contracts, market opportunities, market demand or acceptance of the Company's products are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. These uncertainties could cause the Company's actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements and include reliance on government clients; risks associated with government contracting; risks involved in managing government projects; legislative changes and political developments; opposition from government unions; challenges resulting from growth; adverse publicity; and legal, economic, and other risks detailed in Exhibit 99.1 to the Company's most recent Quarterly Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (file number 001-12997) on May 8th, 2006.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Got this in comments:

I work at the san antonio PROCESSING CENTER it is not a call center. I read your post quite often. I am intrigued by the misunderstanding as to what we actually do in San Antonio. We most definitely are not a Call center. We process applications. We do our best...and I think at this point thats all anyone can do...I think the main problem is we have all forgotten that we are there to help people. When go to work everyday I try to keep that same mentality all day everyday.....Oh by the way..we had a big layoff yesterday (Friday 06/23/2006). Some scary intense moments..Dont know what will happend now..But please know..the people in San Antonio are a good group of people I kow I am one of them..and we are on your side, we should all be on the side of the most vunerable people we serve. Thanks

Do the employees in San Antonio NOT talk to clients? Because that's not what we understand out here in the field.

Also, can you give more details on the layoff yesterday? Who was laid off? Is it true that staff at the "Processing Center" had to be tested in the last week/two weeks?

I do not believe anyone has forgotten we are here to help people. Local office field staff are struggling with being understaffed, etc- yet they stay, because we believe in what we do.

If anyone who works at the Processing Center would like to email me and explain what your job is, please do. I don't reveal sources.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sorry for lack of posts....

Been busy- both at work and at home....

However, work situation only getting worse where I am. It's amazing to me that all that is told to local office staff is "we are in the process of hiring temp workers" as if THAT is going to be the goose that laid the golden egg and everything is going to be just GREAT.

Timeliness is taking a huge hit. This means clients are not getting their benefits as per Federal Policy. Clients are going without.

Again, as I've asked before- how long will the agency have to decline before FNS steps in. Or can they step in? What can be done now?

Expectations of local office staff (not just those in pilot areas) are to keep it all 'business as usual' and see and serve the clients just like we always have. However, the 'suits' have no idea that you can't possibly expect 1 worker to do the work of 3. It's just not possible.

So, if upper management is saying to keep it going- and that delinquencies are NOT an option- but they continue because there simply is not enough staff- then what happens? Put the offending worker on a level thereby taking away their chance at a retention bonus? As if the delinquencies are the work of a lazy employee?

Why can TAA have cases sit for MONTHS and not get done, but local office STATE EMPLOYEE staff cannot?

Rumor is that the overflow in the Portal out of the San Antonio call center is being farmed out amongst ART staff- applications that date from 1/20/06-5/15/06 and the expectation is that all these applications be disposed by July 20something. Last I heard, the pending queue had over 20,000 pending actions.

Considering TIERS goes down quite a bit, and sometimes even when TIERS is up and available, the Portal is not- how is this expectation supposed to be met?

Anyone reading from the Dallas region? Austin region? Houston region? What are your stats looking like? Comment- anonymously- and just give the Region and what you last heard about your office just going with the flow and having the attitude that 'we will do what we can' OR is your office expecting you to get the work done- regardless of how many staff are left?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wanted to expand on something.....

This was in comments:

Anonymous said...
Is this call center in tiers also? Why do they not know what to tell the clients? Lack of training, understanding the screens, or just overwhelmed and don't understand the programs yet? elborate....
10:31 AM

The way I understand it, yes- the call centers are in TIERS. I think it's a combination of lack of training, the TIERS program itself, and being overwhelmed.

Of course, everyone already knew TIERS wasn't working- yet they roll out all these clients into the system. I cannot speak specifically on the training the call center staff received on policy, etc- but I can only guess that it was minimal at best. Especially when you consider how long new workers went to training to learn policy in the 'good old days'.

It's also my understanding the the call center employees (I don't know this from experience in the call center, only what I've heard from others who have been to help there) are very overwhelmed and frustrated that they are unable to help the client. Meanwhile, the clients are calling and calling and calling and getting different answers to questions, and being put off and told to call back, or wait for a letter, or being told they are 'working on it'.

I've seen a client come into the local office that when TIERS was checked and documentation was read- the client called a total of TWENTY ONE times trying to get an appointment set up. 21! Imagine if that had ever happened in a local DHS office!

If anyone else can shed some light on the question "Anonymous" has, please leave a comment.

Falling completely apart

Local offices are reaching a dangerous breaking long is USDA/FNS going to sit by and watch Federal Law continue to get broken before doing something?

Offices are going under- and fast. The workers leaving have caused a snowball effect- it was manageable initially- and now, the work coming in is coming in faster than the trainees are trained.

Offices are running at lead times over 30 days. Clients are not getting the benefits. Expedites are not being seen in 24 hours or within 7 days.

I'm curious as to what the QC error rates are right now across the state- we used to get updates about QC weekly. I couldn't tell you the last time I heard what the percentages were.

Anyone know anything about the error rates?

Timeliness on all case actions are taking huge hits- why aren't workers being 'held harmless' during all this? Why are workers still having to take delinquencies- or take the time to dispute? What shall we say? It was delinquent when I got it? I didn't have enough work time to get it done? The client had to be pended past the 30th day to allow for information to be returned? Isn't all this completely obvious? If TAA can take MONTHS to complete a case, why can't the local offices?

Now local office staff are having to take a CBT (computer based training) on Food Stamp Timeliness. I don't think the issues here are whether or not workers know when a Food Stamp case has to be done. But I guess "management" thinks if they make us take the CBT, then we continue to be delinquent they can 'do something' to the workers.

What are they going to do though? Fire all your remaining tenured workers? As if THAT would solve anything.

The amount of time given for appointments are getting shorter and shorter. Used to be an hour. Then every 45 minutes. Now it's every 30 minutes. This will get the clients interviewed, but it won't necessarily get the cases FINISHED. This only increases client complaints. Let's say an office schedules each worker 15 cases per day 4 days per week which leaves one day a week to do the cases. That's 60 cases per week. Anyone in "management" ever worked 60 cases in one day? I didn't think so.

I don't know what it's going to take...I suppose the offices will have to completely fall apart before anyone steps in.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Letter to the Editor (2)

Letter to the Editor: Don't Scrap HHSC System

San Antonio Express-News
What can we believe about the Health and Human Services Commission? Is it "out of date," like Commissioner Albert Hawkins says ("New benefit system suits more Texans," May 31)? Or has it done outstanding work that earned the state $142 million in federal bonus payments, as stated in a HHSC press release issued in September 2004?
The old system needs some new computer software, but it does not need to be scrapped! Why would the taxpayers of Texas want to throw out a system that was working well for a system that does not? Not only is the new system fraught with well-documented difficulties, but also Accenture, the company running it, is in big trouble in other states for failures to meet contractual agreements. I don't want Texas to go down that road and waste all the money that should go to services for citizens.
The state of Texas is not a business, and the welfare of the citizens is more important than trying to save money. Apparently, Hawkins and our legislators do not care about the citizens of the state, just the wealthy ones who don't need services.
Linda H. Sowdal
San Antonio

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Letter to the Editor (1)

Letter to the Editor: Put the Neediest First

San Antonio Express-News
I am responding to the comment "HHSC plan shouldn't leave out the public" (Express-News, Wednesday) by U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzales.
The last paragraph says, "Any restructuring should put the interests of the neediest in our community before other considerations."
If we did this at the personal, neighborhood, familial and all government levels, many other problems would take care of themselves and our world would be a happier, safer place to live.
Geri Eveler
San Antonio

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Spin, of course.

Letter to the Editor: Clearing the Record on Accenture

Houston Chronicle
The Chronicle's June 7 editorial "Black hole" claimed that Accenture has "wrongly disenrolled numerous Texas children from health insurance for the working poor." All unbiased observers agree that the decline in the enrollment for the Children's Health Insurance Program is the result of legislative changes adopted in 2003 and more recent rule and policy changes made to strengthen the CHIP program's integrity.
As for the decline in Children's Medicaid enrollment, the Texas ACCESS Alliance did not begin processing Children's Medicaid until January 2006 and is only processing a portion of new applications. Our understanding is that the decline in Children's Medicaid is the result of declining renewals, a process in which TAA is not involved.
Keep the record straight on TAA and Accenture's role in helping Texas implement a new, integrated social service eligibility system.
*Mr. McAvoy why don't YOU keep the record straight and be honest.  Stop acting like TAA has never made an error and this is ALL policy or as you infer (by referencing that you do not do renewals on Medicaid) the State's errors that account for the decline.  Local offices actually got to deal with your clients who applied for Medicaid and were given the run around each time they called, pended for unnecessary information, etc- it was actually the local offices that would step in and actually get the client certified- in effect, doing the job your company was paid to do. 
For more than two decades we have built our record on excellent service to the state of Texas. We are committed to excellence in meeting our contractual responsibilities as Texas works to modernize its social service eligibility system.
James McAvoy
Director, Corporate Communications, Accenture
Washington, D.C.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Opinion from Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Opinion: State's Privatization Push Turning Into Debacle
Staff Editorial
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
The state of Texas' push to have private contractors take over the processing of documents bearing on eligibility for social programs seems to have turned into a disaster movie.
The first signs of trouble came in connection with CHIP - the Children's Health Insurance Program, created to extend much-needed help to kids whose families make too much to quality for Medicaid but can't afford adequate health care. Between start-up problems experienced by the private contractors and confusion among families applying for CHIP, thousands of kids dropped out of the progream. Now, no doubt, they are showing up at costly emergency rooms rather than at doctor's offices or clinics when they need treatment.
There have been glitches with regard to the Medicaid rolls, also being handled by a private contractor. There, too, clients have been falling off the charts.
And now comes what may be the most astonishing fiasco yet. The Houston Chronicle has reported that confidential documents bearing on medical issues and financial information submitted by Texans applying for state assistance not only did not get responses; many wound up in a Seattle, Wash., warehouse, where some were shunted off to storage and others were shredded.
It seems the toll-free phone number for the warehouse in Seattle was almost identical (except for area code) to the toll-free number the state advertised for those applications.
Texas officials were notified to that effect on May 9. On May 29, the warehouse manager contacted the contractor who was processing the Texas applications. But not until May 31 did the state and the contractor directly address the problem.
The weeks of inaction are nothing short of astonishing. What comes out of this episode is troubling, even ugly. The state either lacked the initiative to address a situation that cried out for action, or it simply did not deem the plight of these needy individuals as being worthy of action. Either way, it's a profoundly disturbing picture.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Article from Harlingen Valley Morning Star

CHIP-ing Away: Fewer Valley Children Enrolled in Program
Melissa McEver
Harlingen Valley Morning Star
BROWNSVILLE - Rosa Maria Solis never thought about enrolling her kids in the Children's Health Insurance Program. Then her daughter became ill.
This week, Solis filled out a CHIP application for her 18-year-old daughter Ana and 16-year-old son Victor. She's hoping the program will help offset mounting medical bills - at least until Ana turns 19 and no longer qualifies.
The family visited the Brownsville Community Health Center on Wednesday.
"I heard (CHIP) was a good program," said Solis, who didn't identify her daughter's health problems. "I heard it would help us."
Although some Rio Grande Valley families are reaping the benefits of CHIP, many others have dropped out of the program - or the program has dropped them.
Far fewer Valley children are participating in CHIP than in previous years, according to state figures. In the Valley, enrollment in CHIP has decreased by more than 40 percent since 2003, and many families who qualify still aren't enrolled, said Barbara Best, state director of the Children's Research Fund.
The organization is calling for the state to make sweeping changes to the program.
"We've got to restore CHIP," Best said. "We've got to remove the barriers for working families."
CHIP covers children whose families make too much for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance. Enrollment in the program in Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties was at a high of 46,000 in 2003, but has dropped to 26,000 as of April, the state has reported.
Statewide, enrollment has dropped from more than 500,000 since 2003 to 294,000 so far in 2006.
Clinic officials and advocates cite numerous reasons for the decline in CHIP enrollment in the Valley and statewide. They say that because of numerous changes to coverage, families are confused about what the program does and doesn't pay for, so they don't reapply. Policy changes have caused some families to become ineligible. And others complain of excessive red tape, processing errors and delays in obtaining coverage.
"They're intimidated," said Delma Sanchez, a social worker at Brownsville Community Health Center. "They think it's too much paperwork."
CHIP has gone through many changes since its creation, adding layers of confusion for participants. In 2003, the Texas Legislature cut dental, vision and mental-health benefits from the program - benefits that were mostly restored during the 2005 legislative session. Lawmakers also have tinkered with income limits, enrollment fees and waiting periods.
It's tough for families to keep track of so many revisions, said Dr. Elena Marin, executive director of Harlingen-based Su Clinica Familiar.
"There are people who still aren't aware that things have changed, that dental benefits are back in, and mental-health benefits," Marin said. "There needs to be more community outreach."
Families must now re-enroll every six months and pay an enrollment fee of up to $50, and some parents forget or consider it to be too much of a hassle, said Adela Aldrete, an outreach worker at the community-health center in Brownsville. Until 2003, families paid a monthly premium on a sliding scale, and had to reapply only once a year.
"It's difficult to reapply and reapply, over and over," Aldrete said. "They say it takes a lot of time."
Some families are no longer eligible because of changes in income requirements. For example, parents must now include their cars when totaling their assets, which cannot be greater than $5,000. Families with two cars might find themselves out of coverage, Best said.
Many of these policies unfairly punish working families, she said.
"We know these families are working, but don't receive coverage from their employers," she said. "They don't qualify for Medicaid but can't afford private insurance ... yet they're being penalized if they have transportation to work, or if they've set aside some money for their children's education."
State officials have tried to keep the CHIP-application process as streamlined as possible, and have tried to inform patients of changes quickly, said Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which is in charge of CHIP.
"CHIP is one of the simpler programs, and always has been," Goodman said. "We consistently hear that the process is simple."
Goodman said the agency has seen two major drops in CHIP enrollment - in 2003, when the enrollment period was shortened to six months, and in the last year, when the agency started requiring the submission of paycheck stubs twice a year.
Officials are evaluating the enrollment process and surveying families to find out why some aren't renewing coverage, Goodman said.
Families also have complained of paperwork snafus. In January, about 6,000 children were dropped because their families weren't notified about the enrollment fee. The Houston Chronicle recently reported that at least 150 Texas CHIP applications were faxed to a Seattle warehouse because applicants were given the wrong fax number.
The Health and Human Services Commission contracts with a private agency to staff call centers and serve clients.
Best said she hears complaints regularly from families struggling to navigate the system.
"I know families who have called 10 or 15 times, and their information is lost," she said. "I've heard of children being denied because they were not citizens, when they were."
The Children's Defense Fund is calling for the Health and Human Services Commission to stop dropping families until the bureaucratic problems are fixed. The organization also wants the 12-month coverage period reinstated.
"The enrollment used to be high," Best said. With some changes, it could be high again, she said.
In the meantime, outreach workers and clinics will keep trying to get the word out about CHIP and its benefits to Valley residents, Sanchez said.
"We take applications everywhere we go," she said.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Friday, June 09, 2006

rumor has it

Rumor is that the Pilot Area local office workers are having to see almost 30 appointments per day.
Can anyone confirm?
How many appointments are being seen in YOUR local office?
Burning out tenured workers to save timeliness is going to backfire.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Athens Call Center News

By Cristin Ross
Despite numerous problems reported in other Accenture call centers and the State Employees Union’s call for termination of its contract with the state, officials said Tuesday, Athens’ Accenture call center is still a go.
Reports from Athens Economic Development Corporation put the Athens center’s tentative opening date at June 26.
“They’re already training people out there,” said AEDC executive assistant Mary Waddell.
Telephone messages to Accenture’s offices in Dallas and Austin were not returned to the Review, as of presstime Tuesday.
Accenture’s call centers allow people to apply for various state benefits over the phone, online and in person.
The state contracted with Accenture to run the call centers when the decision to privatize the Health and Human Services Department was made in 2004. An estimated 2,900 state employees were laid off last October because of that decision, but those layoffs were rescinded in May as Accenture’s problems intensified — the most recent of which reportedly caused an undetermined number of client applications to be inadvertently faxed to a warehouse in Seattle, Wash.
That incident has the Texas State Employees Union urging the state to terminate Accenture’s contract and return to the way the state handled the department before — with local state-run offices.
“Accenture’s actions not only caused people to not get services that they desperately needed, it caused confidential information to be compromised,” Texas State Employees Union Vice-president Mike Gross said in a press release published June 2. “If state employees had compromised confidential information like this, they would be fired in a heartbeat. The same standard should apply to Accenture.”
Accenture officials report problems with the San Antonio and Midland centers have been aggravated by several changes to the application process and in eligibility requirements went into effect and by the usual bugs inherent in any brand new system.
“The problems we’re having in San Antonio are more of a technical variety, and not as severe as first thought,” Accenture spokeswoman Stephanie Goodwin said in mid-May. We feel pretty confident we can work through those problems soon.
“With the volume of calls we have been getting, we still absolutely need the Athens center.”
The center in Athens has been in the works since December 2005, when the company chose Athens over three other cities, including Longview. The AEDC helped bring the center to town by offering incentives like job incentives and helping fund the massive remodeling of the building on Corsicana Street that formerly housed the K-Mart retail store.
“This is wonderful for this community,” Gatlin said in an earlier interview. “This caliber of company and its affiliates promises to bring good jobs with good pay to the area. They are a first class group.”
Accenture’s recent push to get the openings in the Athens center filled was a complete success, according to hiring firm AppleOne regional manager Ron Griffin, who reported a total of 105 positions filled.
“We got every position they needed filled right now, filled,” Griffin said. “Most positions filled were custom representatives, but we did get some of the managerial jobs filled, too.
“The quality of the applicants was excellent.”
Officials said the center will train its new employees over a three-week period, before opening the center for business.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A couple of articles

One, from the Houston Chronicle talks about those applications faxed to the "black hole" about it HERE.
The other, starts off like this:
Comment: HHSC plan shouldn't leave out the public
Web Posted: 06/07/2006 12:00 AM CDT
Charles Gonzalez
I must disagree with Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins on a number of issues raised in his comment "New benefit system suits more Texans" (May 31).
Read the rest of that article HERE.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

New Article out of San Antonio

Opinion: Retired Medicaid Worker Worries About New System
Carlos Guerra
San Antonio Express-News

In the mid-1970s, Kathy Lynch was working in a Houston Food Stamp program office when she and her husband decided to leave the city. She transferred to Pearsall, and there, she discovered the long-term Medicaid programs that help the disabled, and the elderly in their twilight years.

"I quickly learned that the Medicaid financial policies were very different for the elderly than for, say, single parents," she says. "And I experienced what it's like to have (a parent or other close relative) dying on a hospital bed in the living room as the family tried to figure out what to do next."

The programs were still relatively limited. But her ability to translate already complex regulations was satisfying because it really changed people's lives.

Over the next 30 years, Lynch rose from caseworker to supervisor and finally to a policy position at the old Department of Human Services. And Congress successively made more people eligible for the long-term care programs that are now among Texas' most widely used social safety nets.

But these growth spurts, Lynch says, also expanded the documentation required of applicants, and the complexity of the Kafkaesque regulations grew geometrically.

She has since retired from the agency, but still uses her encyclopedic knowledge of the regulations to help seniors and disabled people. Frequently, that means conducting multiple interviews and making complex financial arrangements so that applicants will get the care they need and deserve.

Lynch is also lobbying to have those programs kept out of the state's new - and faltering - Integrated Eligibility System that has at its heart, call centers that will replace about one-third of the state's field offices and thousands of eligibility workers.

Health and Human Services Commission higher-ups defend the new system - whose rollout is on indefinite hold - as an improvement since clients will not have to miss work to make office visits.

"But what may be a convenience for young single moms will be a technological nightmare for the elderly and disabled," Lynch says. "We have elderly children caring for their even more elderly parents; how many moms and pops with early dementia or Parkinson's, or the effects of a stroke can explain their financial history over the phone, Internet or by fax?"

HHSC officials counter that 200 field offices will still remain open. But Patricia Sitchler, an attorney who specializes in elder law and for whom Lynch now works, worries that the remaining offices will be significantly understaffed.

"The agency work force will fall from 7,864 in 2004 to about 3,900 when the system is fully functional," Sitchler points out.

Like others who have criticized the new privatized, one-size-fits-all eligibility system, Sitchler and Lynch worry that it will prove inappropriate for the special needs of the elderly and disabled.

"It is human contact, one-on-one, face-to-face discussions between a caseworker and the family that make the process work," Lynch explains. "Finding programs to ease the load is the caseworker's function. The diplomacy and expertise of the caseworker working with a grieving family is at the very core of what their job is all about."

And as growing numbers of baby boomers start turning 60, the need for their services will grow. "There is also a misperception about who these benefits are really for," Lynch says: "They are for mainstream America."

Sunday, June 04, 2006


An interesting comment found on a post at OFF-THE-KUFF:
Accenture's lobbyist is Mike Toomey, former Perry chief of staff and architect of the legislation in 2003 that stripped CHIP coverage from kids and allowed for this privatization scheme. Also on Accenture's payroll: Ray Sullivan, former Perry spokesman. No wonder Perry's changing the subject with an anti-immigration speech at the GOP convention in San Antonio today.

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wrong fax number actually reported in January? See this post!

You may want to check out hhscsurvivalist concerning the issue with the wrong fax number. It appears this was discovered back in January, but not distributed to staffers. An email from Taylor O'Brien is there to view at the bottom of the blog.



June 2, 2006 CONTACT WILL ROGERS@ 512/448-4225 OR

Client info sent to "black hole;" fire Accenture, rebuild service delivery capacity

Austin- After learning that the state's public assistance call center contractor had caused applications for services to be sent mistakenly to a Seattle warehouse, The Texas State Employees Union urged the state Health and Human Service Commission to fire the contractor and to rebuild HHSC's delivery capacity that has deteriorated so badly since the agency announced that it would privatize its public assistance services.

The Houston Chronicle reported today in an article by Polly Ross Hughes, headlined, "Needy Texans Applications Faxed into a 'Black Hole," that Accenture, the call center contractor, incorrectly listed the fax number of a Seattle store's warehouse in letters to people applying for Medicaid, food stamps, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

The letter told applicants where to fax completed applications and required documents such as "medical evaluations, income tax forms and pay stubs." The faxed documents also contained applicants' Social Security Numbers." (

"Accenture's actions not only caused people to not get services that they desperately needed, it caused confidential information to be compromised," said Mike Gross, TSEU vice-president. "If state employees had compromised confidential information like this, they would be fired in a heart beat. The same standard should apply to Accenture."

Gross also added that since 2004 when HHSC announced plans to privatize services, services have deteriorated badly as many state employees working in offices slated for closure left for other jobs and HHSC did not hire replacements, leaving most offices extremely short staffed, causing service delays.

"When HHSC announced in 2004 that it would privatize its eligibility services, workers started leaving for other jobs," Gross said. "The exodus intensified last October when HHSC sent layoff notices to 2900 eligibility workers. The result was predictable. People needing services had to wait longer to get them."

Before HHSC announced its privatization plans, about 7000 employees worked in local eligibility offices. That number dropped to about 5800 by last July. In May when HHSC rescinded the 29000 layoffs, the number of employees in local offices was about 4800.

To make matters worse, these understaffed offices must work more than 12,000 backlogged Accenture cases in addition to their own caseload since HHSC decided to return work that had been privatized back to local eligibility offices.

"After HHSC fires Accenture, it needs to use the money that it was going to spend on the contract to restaff its local offices and give them the tools to help them catch up with the backlog and revitalize services," Gross said.


New Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Call regular phones from your PC and save big.

Needy Texans' Applications faxed into "Black Hole"

AUSTIN - Three months ago, dozens of documents from Texas containing highly confidential financial and health information began arriving over a fax machine at a Seattle warehouse.
Shaun Peck, a clerk at the warehouse, searched through the mysterious documents — revealing Social Security numbers, medical evaluations, income tax forms and pay stubs — and wondered why they kept coming and where they should be going instead.
Back in Texas, frustrated elderly, disabled and poor people have long wondered why they sent applications for benefits to the state only to be told they never arrived.
Peck didn't know it, but he had discovered the much-rumored "black hole" eating up Texas applications for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The snafu is just the latest example of confusion during the state's transition this year from public to private screening of health and welfare applicants under an $899 million contract with outsourcing giant Accenture LLP.
At least 144 of the faxes, and possibly many more destroyed in a shredder or manually disconnected, were intended for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission or its private contractor in Midland but landed instead at the Seattle warehouse.
But, despite a call and two e-mails from Seattle to the state agency more than three weeks ago, misdirected faxes still arrived at the Seattle warehouse this week from applicants apparently clueless that a problem existed.
"I have not heard anything back from them. Nothing at all," said Cindy Sandford of Seattle, who alerted Texas officials May 9 about the wayward faxes at the request of the warehouse manager.
It wasn't until Wednesday — the day the Houston Chronicle raised questions — that the agency and its private contractor actively began checking into and fixing the mistake.
"It is unfortunate. It is an error on our part that it did not go further in that regard," HHSC spokeswoman Gail Randall said Thursday, referring to the agency's lack of greater follow-through early on. "I know they've been working on this since yesterday."
However, the mystery of the bad fax number is finally unraveling. It turns out a Midland call center run by Accenture mistakenly listed the wrong fax number on a document sent to a state agency handling benefits for the elderly and disabled.

Wrong number

Under its Texas Access Alliance letterhead, Accenture and its subcontractors listed the call center's Midland address, the state's 2-1-1 hot line for needy Texans and two fax numbers.
If information was faxed to the first one, 877-HHSC-TEX, no problem. But if it was sent to the second fax number, 800-447-2839, private documents landed in Peck's hands at the Take Care Store warehouse in Seattle.
"There was a black hole in Seattle, Washington," Peck told the Chronicle. "People send us check stubs. They send us bills. We've gotten letters from people asking why they haven't been approved for food stamps yet. They were faxing in their personal information."
Exposure of clients' identities and personal information raises questions about state and federal privacy laws, said Celia Hagert, policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based think tank advocating for low-income Texans.
Federal law and regulations generally require any state public assistance agency to safeguard personal information against unauthorized use or disclosure. This includes such things as names, addresses, amount of assistance, wages, medical data and Social Security numbers.
The wrong-number snafu comes amid widespread complaints about contract performance at Accenture's private call center in Midland, plunging enrollments for children's health insurance programs and complaints of lost applications for food stamps and other programs handled at the center.
"I think this is a screw-up. Everything that can go wrong with this transition (from state to private benefit screeners) has gone wrong," said Anne Dunkelberg, a health policy analyst at the Austin think tank. "This is something we didn't even dream of. Who knows what happened to these people's benefits?"
Peck said he was shocked when the faxes with Texas area codes began arriving and was perplexed about what to do. Attempts to call the return fax numbers often turned up large office and print centers that couldn't identify which customer had sent the fax, he said.
He isn't sure how many benefit applications and supporting documents have arrived at the store warehouse, roughly guessing a dozen a week or perhaps 144 in three months.
But, they are still arriving, including a 10-page fax seeking children's health insurance and food stamps late last week with copies of a Social Security card and bank statement, said Sandford, who manages the Take Care Store's Yellow Pages account and agreed to help the warehouse get to the bottom of the misdirected faxes.

Wrong number removed

Commission spokeswoman Randall said Thursday that the incorrect fax number has now been removed from the private contractor's memos to the Department of Aging and Disability Services and there is no sign it was ever printed on letters to clients. It is possible, however, that people have inadvertently misdialed since 877 and 800 are both toll-free prefixes, she added.
Sandford, frustrated when Texas faxes kept coming to Seattle, contacted Accenture's Texas Access Alliance directly on May 25 and sent the private contractors a copy of their cover sheet containing the erroneous fax number.
"Please do not ignore this fax," she began. "Please change your cover sheet immediately and notify everyone who has a copy of this incorrect information."
Accenture issued a statement to the Chronicle on Thursday. It said as soon as it became aware that faxes were going to a wrong number, it began a thorough investigation leading to actions that should stop faxes from landing in Seattle.
"We found out about it yesterday," said the company's spokeswoman, Jill Angelo of Public Strategies Inc. in Austin. The company also noted that 215,000 other faxes were sent to the correct number this year.

New Yahoo! Messenger with Voice. Call regular phones from your PC and save big.