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The ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee had its first hearing of the year on Friday, July 17th. The committee invited several public employees and client advocates to testify, including DHHS’s new CEO, Courtney Phillips. Ms. Phillips assured the committee that DHHS has spent considerable time meeting with staff at call centers and local offices to gain insight and identify necessary improvements.
Under new leadership, DHHS has taken steps to improve the ACCESSNebraska system. One improvement involves the creation of the ACCESSNebraska Dashboard. The dashboard demonstrates how ACCESSNebraska is doing in an easy-to-understand format, using metrics developed by DHHS to show successes and failures in the system. The dashboard is shown on ACCESSNebraska’s website, and is updated monthly. The current report is shown online along with an archive of past reports and a link to subscribe to the monthly updates. There are also plans to update the Nebraska Family On-Line Client user system (N-FOCUS) technology on the Medicaid side.
In 2013, programs administered by ACCESSNebraska were split between two sides. The Medicaid and Long-Term Care (MLTC) side administers Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Children and Family Services (CFS) or Economic Assistance (EA) side administers SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), ADC (Aid to Dependent Children), Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD), the Nebraska Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Child Care Subsidy, the State Disability Program (SDP), the Social Service Block Grant (SSBG), and the Refugee Resettlement Program (RRP).
DHHS has developed a Top 10 list of operational hurdles to overcome. The list includes reviewing mail operations to ensure mail goes out in a timely manner, reviewing policies to simplify processes for efficiency, and reviewing data requested for reports to ensure that the right information is being reported. DHHS will be analyzing workforce management to better handle work when it hits peak levels, and will also focus on the recruitment and retention of staff.
DHHS seems to have acknowledged many of the concerns mentioned in testimony from outside organizations. Problems mentioned include a lack of available human resources, the too-old technology used in N-FOCUS, and that the confusion caused by separating MLTC and CFS has caused people to miss out on benefits they’re eligible for.
The committee will continue to provide oversight to ACCESSNebraska’s progress. The next hearing will likely be later this fall.