Friday, September 25, 2009

Senior, disability advocates in Indiana say IBM welfare system full of mistakes

From TV 6 News in Indiana:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Advocates for some of the state's most at-risk citizens told lawmakers Sept. 25 that IBM has created a system full of mistakes, and should have its contract with the state canceled.

They testified before the State Budget Committee on behalf of seniors, the disabled and the poor, who they said have been subjected to a mismanaged state welfare system, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

IBM and its partner companies have a $1.3 billion contract with the state to manage the welfare intake in 59 of Indiana's 92 counties and handle about one-third of the state's 1.2 million-person caseload.

"It seems that we are paying a lot of Hoosiers' tax money on a contract where services are not being provided, or not being provided well," Kim Dodson, an advocate for disabled.

Clients, their legislators and advocates have complained that the new modernization system, which took away in-person caseworkers, loses documents, misses telephone appointments and has lengthy hold times.

"Too many seniors, people with disabilities and other of our most vulnerable citizens have endured monstrous challenges to address their basic health care, nutritional and other daily necessities," said Paul Chase, associate director for public policy with AARP Indiana. "These citizens should not be punished any longer."

Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Anne Murphy said more personal contact may be needed, but that caseworkers are a thing of the past. She said IBM and its partners are working to improve things.

"If they wish to stay at home and apply online, they can do that. If they wish to apply by telephone, they can do that," she said. "I'm not saying there haven't been problems."

Gov. Mitch Daniels will announce changes to the system next month. He indicated that he probably won't cancel the entire contract, but would not say what changes he was considering.