Indiana to launch ‘hybrid’ welfare system

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. 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.

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