The state social services group refuses to contract out to companies outside the state | News, sports, jobs
The State Department of Human Services’ plan to contract a foreign provider pissed off the union representing social services workers.
At a recent town hall held through ZOOM, Steve Catanese, the union’s local president, said the forum was driven by the state’s plan to give Maximus a long-term contract. The contract would be to conduct assessments for older people applying for retirement benefits. Maximus is currently taking over the registration process for the Area Agencies of Aging. The new treaty would expand their role.
“For those unfamiliar with Maximus, it’s an out of state, privately held contractor based in Virginia.” Catanese said.
“They have a long history of bad reputation, especially with Medicaid-related contracts where they consistently perform poorly and gain above the best outcomes for the vulnerable citizens that we expect.” he added.
Jean Sullivan, director of STEP’s local aging office, agreed with Catanese’s assessment of Maximus.
“Our overall experience with Maximus is the same as with other AAAs. Our consumers have seen the same robocalls and waiting times. Lost or misplaced documents have always been one of the hurdles. We routinely make copies of all documents so that we can quickly resubmit them if packages are misplaced, lost, or “never received” at the Maximus post office. “ She said.
One by one, the speakers in the town hall told of Maximus’ shortcomings.
Howard MacIntosh, who works in Lackawanna County retirement benefits, claimed that Maximus creates “Bottlenecks”.
“They don’t offer personal support. Basically, they send out an application at the beginning of the process and look at the application at the end, like bookends. These bookends have become bottlenecks. If anything, they hinder more than they make it easier “, said MacIntosh. “I would say before we think about expanding the role (of Maximus) we should seriously think about eliminating it.”
For Julie Elliott, a Montgomery County clerk, one of the problems with Maximus is the lack of face-to-face contact between the agency and the adult client.
“It’s a personal thing… they’ve built a relationship with their customers. Often times, a customer calls me with concerns and is already stressed trying to get their loved ones to a nursing home. I do my job, as far as it happens in the process, to answer all questions that are asked in order to make it more pleasant for you. “ said Elliott.
“This is a population at risk and it is so sad that you are going to give this to a company that is known for just not being that personal.” She said.
According to Sullivan, the assessment process the state is considering commissioning Maximus is to determine whether the consumer’s level of care meets the criteria for benefits paid for by Medical Assistance.
“The assessment process is part of enrollment and the AAAs have been carrying out the assessment process since 1989.” She said.
“We received a referral at our office indicating that a consumer is looking for domestic and community services or nursing homes. We immediately feed consumer demographic information into the rating system. The transfer is assigned to an appraiser – and the appraiser contacts the consumer. The assessment will be carried out face-to-face (or over the phone for COVID-19 precautions). “ She said.
“The results will be sent electronically to Maximus for those requesting home and community-based services to tie in with the rest of the registration package. We have a 10 day schedule to complete all reviews. We adhere to this ten-day schedule 99% of the time. “ said Sullivan.
Catanese urged the 300+ people who visited the virtual town hall to contact the governor’s office to express their opposition to the awarding of the contract to Maximus.
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