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Ind. to launch ‘hybrid’ welfare system next week

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Indiana’s human services agency is expected to roll out its “hybrid” welfare intake program, aimed at correcting problems that arose when it tried to privatize the system, in 10 southwestern counties next week.

The Family and Social Services Administration had said that it would roll out the hybrid system in the counties around Evansville sometime in January, and last week spokesman Marcus Barlow said the change probably would occur during the last week of the month.

Under the hybrid system, which follows the state’s aborted effort to turn welfare intake completely over to private vendors, many state and private case workers will shift from call centers into local offices to give people more personal contact with those making decisions about their food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits.

“Things are moving right now as to plan,” Barlow said. “We remain very confident that this will be the answer.”

About 1.2 million Indiana residents receive Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits through the state’s welfare program.

Barlow said the hybrid system will need about two months to work out bugs before data shows whether the changes are working. The agency has no timetable yet for rolling out the program to more counties, he said.

Problems with privatized welfare, including documents turning up lost after being submitted by clients, lengthy hold times for the call centers and too many errors in processing benefits, led FSSA Secretary Anne Murphy to halt its rollout and Gov. Mitch Daniels to fire Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. as the lead vendor on the privatized system.

FSSA now has replaced IBM as the project manager while retaining most of its subcontractors, including Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services Inc.

The agency has said the changes will improve state oversight of the private portions of the system, keep better tabs on documents submitted by clients and move more workers from call centers to county welfare offices.

Critics remain skeptical of the hybrid system’s prospects for success.

“The privatized system crashed and burned a long time ago across the state,” said John Cardwell, chairman of the Indiana Home Care Task Force.

Once the hybrid program is in place, Indiana effectively will have three welfare intake systems: the hybrid, the more automated system put in place in 49 additional counties before Murphy halted it, and the 33 counties still reliant on strictly face-to-face contact between clients and case workers. Those 33 counties include the cities of Indianapolis, Gary and South Bend.

The 10 hybrid counties are Davies, Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Warrick and Vanderburgh.

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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