last month, the state halted the rollout of one of its more controversial privatization programs (though they're all controversial): the privatization of the FSSA, the people who administer the state's welfare program. at the time, they claimed that they had to halt the rollout because they were so busy helping flooding victims. but now we learn the truth—the federal government made them stop:
The problem centers on the performance of a team of vendors led by IBM Corp. and Affiliated Computer Services, which last year won a $1.16 billion, 10-year contract with the Family and Social Services Administration to process applications for Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare benefits received by nearly one in six Hoosiers.
The effort has in many cases replaced face-to-face interviews for welfare assistance with call centers and computers, creating an obstacle for people without easy access to those technologies, said Glenn Cardwell, a former Vigo County state welfare director who is among the more vocal critics of the new system.
naturally, the people most likely to need welfare assistance are those who are least likely to have computers with internet access or lots of time to dick around on the phone. so how bad are things at FSSA now under mitch roob? this bad:
Roob said FSSA has a 60-day standard for approving food stamp applications rather than the 30-day standard followed by Food and Nutrition Services and most states.
FNS expects states to process 95 percent of food stamp applications within 30 days. Indiana's average is about 83 percent.
Beyond timeliness, advocates are concerned that the system is dumping people off welfare rolls.
State data show the number of people receiving food stamps has dropped more than 11 percent -- from 67,370 to 59,617 -- from May 2007 in the 12-county region centered where FSSA rolled out the changes in October.
Medicaid enrollment dropped by more than 4 percent -- from 86,574 to 82,874 -- in those counties.
In the state's remaining 80 counties -- which largely went unaffected by the welfare changes since they were rolled out -- Medicaid rolls grew from 735,703 to 755,623, or 2.7 percent, Cardwell said.
The privatization expanded to 27 counties in western and Southern Indiana on March 24. It reached 20 additional counties in northeastern and southwestern Indiana in May.
The Family and Social Services Administration's own numbers appear to indicate the volume of calls coming in is overwhelming the vendors.
Zach Main, director of FSSA's Division of Family Resources, released statistics last week showing 11.5 percent of callers to the vendors' 800 number abandoned their calls, or hung up, without completing them. Some were on hold more than 10 minutes.
The goal is to eventually reduce the abandonment rate to 7 percent, Main said.¶