Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New Welfare Computer System Costs

Note: These comments do not reflect the views of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in any way.

The System Cost 200 million Dollars. It was suppose to be more efficient, faster, require less staff, and provide better services. It will cost more to maintain, it is hardly working, much slower, and requires more staff to deliver the same benefits.
Fooled you, Colorado, didn't they?

Texas, on the other hand has paid 300 million dollars for an equally bad system, but the people in Austin making the decisions nevertheless still think they will save money, require fewer staff, and be more efficient. Colorado was fooled. Texas State leaders are simply foolish, or are being paid very well under the table to be willing to appear to be such.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is still charging ahead with its plans to introduce a flawed system. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they nevertheless, still plan to roll it out state wide, AND reduce staff at the same time. Consequently, we should expect to see a far bigger mess than Colorado had (and still has).

Welfare issues won’t end with computer fix


Running Colorado’s troubled computer system for welfare benefits will probably cost more than previous systems after its glitches are fixed, El Paso County’s top welfare official said Monday.

The system was supposed to streamline applying for welfare benefits and help in other areas such as detecting fraud. But even if the system worked as planned, managing welfare cases will still take more time and workers than required with the six computer systems it replaced.

Despite originally selling this to the Legislature as a big cost saving and a staff reduction, it’s very unlikely that’s going to be the case,” said Department of Human Services Director Barbara Drake.

Gov. Bill Owens ordered that the $200 million Colorado Benefits Management System be activated Sept. 1 over the objections of welfare administrators in all the state’s 64 counties, who feared the system was not ready.

It wasn’t.

The system mistakenly denied benefits such as food stamps to thousands of families, and welfare workers still haven’t caught up with a backlog of unprocessed applications for help. Some system flaws have been repaired and workers are making progress on the application backlog, thanks to help from the state including 35 temporary employees, El Paso County welfare officials reported Monday.

The state has picked up the tab for temporary workers in many counties, spending millions of dollars so far.

Drake cited an Adams County study that found the department would need more workers even if all the computer flaws were fixed. Commissioner Wayne Williams said that’s difficult to predict because computer experts are still working on the repairs.

Williams said the computer problems are taking attention from the welfare department’s mission.

The big consequence of this transition is that we’re not able to devote staff resources to actually help people move off the welfare system,” Williams said.

Drake is likely to face a staff reduction with or without the computer system fixes because funding for the temporary workers is expected to expire by late September or early October.

The welfare department’s budget was cut this year from $45.5 million to $44.3 million while the need for benefits such as cash payments, food stamps and Medicaid is rising.

Lawmakers balk at cost to fix welfare computers
By Steven K. Paulson, Associated Press
June 21, 2005

State lawmakers balked Tuesday at sinking another $8.2 million into Colorado's beleaguered welfare computer system, including $250,000 to rent office space from the computer builder for workers hired by the state to fix the problem.

"We're bringing in people to straighten this out, and they have the nerve to charge us rent to house these people?" asked Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge.

Keller and other members of the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee put off a vote on the funding request, submitted by Gov. Bill Owens' administration, until at least Wednesday.

Keller said Electronic Data Systems, which has the contract, should provide the office space for the 34 workers because it failed to live up to its obligations to build the $200 million system and got the state dragged into court over failures to provide welfare benefits on time.

"We were told by EDS they had a computer program that would address the needs of our constituents. It's a mess, it's a disaster," she said.

Sen. Dave Owen, R-Greeley, questioned the need for the state to hire more workers.

"Here we have this huge bureaucracy for this two-year period," he said.

Bill Ritz, a spokesman for EDS, did not return calls seeking comment.

The Colorado Benefits Management System, or CBMS, is responsible for processing welfare benefits that include Medicaid and food stamps. It went online in September even though some counties complained they weren't ready to make the switch.

The system was blamed for causing a backlog of nearly 30,000 cases, and a judge ordered the state to clear up the problems or face sanctions. In May, the state said the backlog had been reduced to 9,000 cases.

Owens stepped in after an independent report cited management failures as one of the reasons the system has major flaws. He put Republican former Rep. John Witwer, a retired physician, in charge at an annual salary of $110,000.

Witwer asked the JBC for $8.2 million and state budget officials pared the figure to $5.2 million, saying the money is needed because of "an emergency or act of God," a designation necessary for funding when the Legislature in not in session.

Witwer said the state needs to hire temporary technicians for up to two years to work with EDS to get the system working properly. He said the state and company will have to decide later who is at fault for the problems and who should pay.