June 2, 2006 CONTACT WILL ROGERS@ 512/448-4225 OR firstname.lastname@example.org
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." (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/3921782.html.)
"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 In May when HHSC rescinded the 29000 layoffs, the number of employees in local offices was about 4800.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.
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