Thursday, March 23, 2006

CHIP Architect Would Like To Make It Right Again

Former State Rep. Patricia Gray, who shepherded the landmark CHIP legislation through the House in 1999 is not happy with what has been done to it. The Austin Chronicle has the story, Chipping Away at CHIP. CHIP was instituted and working well and then in came the Republican majority and privatization:
The agency's (Health and Human Services) privatization plan calls for shuttering the state's community-based offices, firing thousands of workers, and replacing both with privately operated call centers to determine a person's eligibility for receiving CHIP benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, and other social services.

This is not what the original architects of CHIP had in mind when they designed what was supposed to be a relatively user-friendly program for families who can't afford health insurance but don't qualify for Medicaid. The state-funded program was set up to tap $423 million a year in federal matching funds to serve more than 500,000 eligible children.

The CHIP upheaval stems from the 2003 Legislature's two-pronged massacre of the state's health and human services programs, first with deep budget cuts (since partially restored) followed by a massive consolidation and overhaul of the state's health and social services. The changes wrought by that year's HB 2292, authored by former GOP Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, also opened up new contract opportunities for Accenture. Several states have hired Accenture to develop new electronic voter file systems or to manage state-funded social service programs. But Accenture's record on both fronts is shoddy at best. In the last two years, at least half a dozen states have fired the contractor for failing to deliver on its obligations.
More from Gray here:
"This notion that private business always does it better than government is just stupid," Gray said. "What we've done is create a whole new network of people who get the big money and then dole it out in little bits. We've just created another class of people who survive off taxpayer money."
Privatization is not the panacea it's been made out to be, there have been mixed results so far from Accenture in Texas. Our government is supposed to promote the general welfare of the people, not corporations.

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