Newspapers from around Indiana and beyond have provided follow-up editorials and stores related to Thursday’s announcement of Governor Mitch Daniels cancelling the Indiana’s contract with IBM to privatize the state’s welfare system. Here’s are excerpts from Bloomington, Chicago, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Muncie and South Bend, along with links to the complete editorials and stories.
Bloomington Herald-Times (online subscription required) – Indiana’s welfare clients were neglected in pursuit of efficiency – Daniels was right about one thing. That old system was far from perfect, with serious problems of its own.
His first attempt to fix it has clearly failed. For the sake of all those Hoosiers who desperately need the system to work better, this second attempt can’t.
Perhaps that was the consortium’s big mistake. It misidentified the real client in all this. It isn’t Daniels or the state. It is the people who must depend on the system for survival. They aren’t digitized avatars. They’re real.
Chicago Tribune – Daniels, GOP could face welfare deal fallout – “Daniels had long backed the ambitious 10-year, $1.34 billion deal despite the complaints. He finally sacked Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM, though, saying it hadn’t done enough to fix problems.
Other private vendors, including Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas, one of the vendors partnered with IBM, will continue working on the programs.
But IBM’s firing means the welfare modernization is no longer a program Daniels can point to as a success. And some believe it could mar both his legacy as governor and his reputation as a proponent of privatization as a way to improve government services at less cost.”
Evansville Courier-Press – Local lawmakers got FSSA job done – Tillery recounted the litany of problems with the new FSSA system, including the case of a woman who received the news that her Medicaid benefits had been canceled while she was undergoing treatment for cancer. Deaconess Hospital continued the treatment despite the cancellation.
“This lady was so stressed out during the last days of her life,” Tillery said.
In the end, the error was identified and the woman’s benefits were restored. Unfortunately, Tillery said, she died before she could get the good news.
The so-called “hybrid” system proposed by Gov. Daniels that takes advantage of new technology and restores some semblance of face-to-face contact can’t come a moment too soon.
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Welfare ‘hybrid’ to emerge – Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, took a stab at what she called “back-of-the-envelope” calculations when the state’s answers didn’t satisfy her. Welch said she and her legislative assistant, using numbers provided by the state’s auditor, calculated the state was paying about $140,000 a day to IBM during the first eight months of this year for services not rendered.
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel – The lesson to learn from failure of IBM contract – “The state will now face monumental challenges in trying to get its welfare system back on track. It says it will create a “hybrid” system with the best of the old analog days and the best of the IBM automated approach. That will also mean a hybrid personnel system with state workers and employees of companies winning contracts for small pieces of the system.
There is likely to be an ugly transition period during which service will get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.
But the goals are worthy, and two are worth special mention:
♦Clients won’t just be herded into the automatic system. They will have a choice of applying for benefits in person, over the phone, by fax or online, and there will be face-to-face contact in county offices.
♦Case management will take place in county offices: ‘There will be much more of a local focus instead of a statewide focus,’ – FSSA spokesman Marcus Barlow.”
Muncie Star Press: – Governor Mitch Daniel’s IBM contract cancellation has clients, agencies excited“- I was very happy that the governor finally admitted that the critics were right, but the devil’s in the details,” said Bob Schmidt of Action Inc., a community action agency based in Muncie. “The new plan could end up not being much different than the old (IBM) plan, which bothers me. What about the people who have been totally screwed over by the system? This news isn’t going to mean much for them for a long time, if ever.”
South Bend Tribune – Must to learn from state’s FSSA mistake – “There is no doubt that Indiana’s Medicaid, food stamps and welfare application process was in serious need of modernization when Daniels took office in 2005. The fact that the wholesale privatization experiment has failed does not mean that some of the changes made over the last two years aren’t worth keeping.
Above all, we’re glad there is a transition plan in place — even one that has come together very quickly. We also believe that it is important that the transition be reviewed by experts on state welfare administration outside the FSSA team. An oversight commission should include authorities on state assistance distribution from past administrations and members of the General Assembly who have been monitoring the problem-plagued privatization process.”