Medicaid update – administrative conversion drives up call wait times

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Friday’s Medicaid oversight council meeting focused on DSS’s conversion to ImpactCT, a new IT system to handle eligibility and enrollment. The hope is that moving more administrative functions online will streamline the process and reduce errors. Unfortunately, implementing the system is pulling staff away from their desks for 9 days of training, causing a sharp increase in average call wait times up to 54 minutes last month. Also disturbing is the very large volume of calls – 134,903 monthly on average — which has been pretty steady over the last two years. If those were unique callers (which they probably aren’t) that would mean that one in five members was calling for help every month. The phone tree is only serving half of the callers — 76,021 average ask to be connected to a real person, and 30% of those callers give up – not surprising as they will lively wait an hour to talk to that real person. In good news, by all reports, when callers do reach a person they are getting what they need and have a very good experience with the call. But in more bad news, shifting members to apply and manage their eligibility online is not working. DSS receives an average of 355,118 separate paper envelopes of applications, renewals and changes each month while only a few thousand are using the online system. An average 33,761 members (4% of the population, if unique) trek to a walk-in service center monthly but that rate is going down. DSS acknowledged the problems, said they’ve learned from past administrative shifts, are working to improve service, and promised to remain transparent, sharing public updates regularly. Committee members noted the large reductions in staff over the years and expressed concern that tight state finances not make the problem worse. DSS asked all of us to help them guide people to the online system, but they never addressed whether the system is user-friendly and working. In good news, DSS noted that timelines for SNAP applications and error rates have improved with the administrative updates so far. The shift to ImpactCT should be completed by this Fall.