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Audit: Contractor late in returning calls

By Sarah Green | June 18, 2008

By Sarah Green
KHI News Service

TOPEKA, June 18 The contractor in charge of answering parents" questions about their children"s participation in the state"s HealthWave program is supposed to return calls within a day.

But that"s not always the case. A Division of Legislative Post Audit study released Wednesday found that 28 out of 100 sampled messages left with the contractor between July 2007 and February 2008 were not returned on time.

The slow response did not appear to affect HealthWave enrollment, but the report said service could be improved if the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which oversees the state"s insurance program, clarified its contract with Maximus, a private contractor that administers it.

HealthWave is available to children in families under 200 percent of poverty -- $35,200 for a three-person household.

Maximus, a for-profit company, has struggled to enforce federal requirements aimed at keeping undocumented immigrants from receiving state-funded services. The requirements, effective July 1, 2006, triggered long delays as parents scrambled to produce proper documentation birth certificates, usually for their children.

Within months, the Maximus-run Kansas Family Medical Clearinghouse amassed a backlog of tens of thousands of applications. The number of phone calls from parents spiked dramatically.

The post audit study noted that parts of the state"s contract with Maximus were not enforced while the call center responded to the changes in documentation requirements.

Thirteen of of 28 calls were returned a day late and were not considered "severe" infractions. Other calls were returned three, six and eight days late.

Auditors also found that on nine occasions, customer service representatives didn"t follow the company"s policy of making three attempts to return the message. Two calls weren"t returned at all.

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said he had called the HealthWave office on behalf of a constituent who was experiencing an urgent medical problem. "It wasn"t until I called and identified myself as a state rep that I finally got a return call with the information that was necessary," he said.

Responding to the audit, Maximus officials said they were testing an electronic system to document incoming phone messages.

The health policy authority said it would re-write portions of its next contract for the program, which will be in place on June 30, 2009. Plans call for the health policy authority to begin the process for soliciting bids in a few months.

The report elicited few comments from legislators on the Joint Committee on Legislative Post Audit, which met today and voted to accept the report.

Burroughs and Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, asked Scott Bruner, chief financial officer for the health policy authority, and Carla Deckert, Maximus project manager, if additional staff positions approved by the 2007 Legislature were still needed.

Bruner and Deckert said the number of calls had declined, but the complexity of processing each application has increased.

"We appreciate the Legislature"s willingness to meet our contract"s needs and keep people enrolled and keep the process moving," Bruner said.

In other post audit news:
* The committee received a performance audit on computer security that showed some state agencies had failed to remove confidential and sensitive information from computers before releasing them to the state surplus office for sale to the public.

Out of 15 computers audited, seven hard drives had either been inadequately reformatted or, in some instances, not reformatted at all.

The auditors found thousands of social security numbers, Medicaid identification numbers and other personal information on the computers.

Auditors recommended that agencies, including the Adjutant General"s office, the health policy authority, and the department of administration, adopt "best practices" for deleting information from hard drives.

Several state agencies did not have such policies in place; instead, workers assumed the surplus office staff would properly remove the data before selling the computers.

"Here is a perfect example of why not having a policy can have really a bad result," said Allan Foster, one of the report"s authors.

-Sarah Green is a staff writer for KHI News Service, which specializes in coverage of health issues facing Kansans. She can be reached at sgreen@khi.org or at 785-233-5443, ext. 118.