Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Privatized Welfare... Making it easier for the people?

...or just making it easier for private computers to steal tax dollars from Uncle Sucker?

HHSC Employee has a link to a blogger who talks about the new system from the perspective of one who is on the other side of the equation than the State employees who have been commenting on how bad the new system is. This is an important window and what a mess this new "customer friendly" system is, that supposedly was going to increase accessibility for those who need it.

As one who use to work in a state run call center that processed changes people report on their cases, I was incredulous to learn recently that those cases that are already completely in the new system (people in the Austin region, and those whose cases have already been converted to the hapless 300 million dollar computer system (that still doesn't work as well as the old system) who want to report a change on their case (such as that they are now working, or that their husband has returned to the home) are told that they must fill out a form to report the change. This form has to be mailed to them, or they can get one at their local state run office (which this new system is supposed to keep them out of, as much as possible... supposedly) -- however, experience has shown that when they ask for it to be mailed to them, they usually do not get it, and so end up back at the local office. Then they run into the problem of ensuring that this form is actually received by someone who will actually do anything about it. Mind you, they do not act on the change until this form is received... which means most changes are not being acted on at all.

In the state run call center, we would never have told a recipient to fill out a form for us to take the change. We always took the change over the phone, tried to verify the information over the phone if possible... and if not, we would send a letter requesting the information. One reason we always took the change over the phone is that we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to report their changes, because most people will not bother to try to report a change more than once, particularly if the change is likely to result in a reduction in benefits.

I would not argue that the old system was flawless. Occassionally people dropped the ball. But the difference was that people had a name and a face, they could come into the office, and ask why something had happened or not happened... they could speak to a supervisor if necessary, and at the end of the day, if we had made a mistake, we would fix it. In the new system, they have a first name and no face, and no one to talk to when there is a people, other than another faceless first name, who generally gives them the run around. At the end of the day, their cases are not getting fixed unless they call their state representatives. It literally takes an act of a congressional official to resolves these problems.

This new system is completely dysfunctional. It is not saving the state any money. It is not delivering increased customer service. It is not even delivering the same level of service that was being delivered before this new system was implemented.... which is why it has not been fully implemented. Nevertheless, the powers that be continue to refuse to cut their loses, and acknowledge that this system is a disaster.

This reminds me of some other examples of Bureaucratic Stupidity, in which corrections are not made until the disaster is complete.