|Ohio takes next step to replace old benefit system|
|Written by ANN SANNER, Associated Press|
|Thursday, 08 August 2013 06:10|
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state took another step Wednesday toward replacing an outdated computer system that's known for rejecting eligible people from the Medicaid program and accepting others who don't meet the criteria.
State officials announced that Ohio will contract with Deloitte Consulting to redesign the process for determining eligibility for Medicaid and other programs across the state's health and human services agencies. The firm also is expected to make the system more user-friendly.
Deloitte will get $19 million over three years under the contract. The federal government is expected to pick up most of that cost, with the state paying less than $2 million.
Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled, provides health coverage for one of every five residents in the state. Most Ohioans apply for Medicaid and other government assistance through county offices. Ohio's new system will give recipients online and mobile access to Medicaid, food and cash assistance programs, and other services.
People won't have to waste time driving to the county agencies to find out if they are eligible for help, said Greg Moody, director of the governor's Office of Health Transformation. Instead, they can get a quick answer online.
"More than anything else we've done, I think it's going to change the experience actual individuals have with government," Moody said in an interview.
Ohio's current eligibility system, known as CRIS-E, was launched more than 30 years ago. It's been described by Gov. John Kasich's administration as "so fragile and technically obsolete that it is no longer practical or cost effective to invest in enhancing the system."
The state estimates that 60 percent of CRIS-E's eligibility determinations for Medicaid are inaccurate and must be manually overridden to prevent applicants from being denied coverage or remove those who weren't eligible.
The new system will cut back on the use of paper applications, freeing county workers to spend more time on complicated cases where eligibility is harder to determine.
The upgraded system will be rolled out in waves beginning in October and starting with the Medicaid program.
Moody said he expects significant savings from the changes, but added the administration hasn't put a number on it.
The updates come as Kasich has pushed to expand the Medicaid program to cover more low-income people under President Barack Obama's health care law. Almost 366,000 Ohioans would be eligible for coverage beginning in 2014 by expanding Medicaid, should the Legislature approve the idea.
The state also is preparing for 230,000 eligible Ohioans to sign up for Medicaid once the federal law requires most people to have health insurance.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
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