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Cumberland working on backlog of Medicaid renewals

Posted April 30, 2015

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— More than two years after it was introduced, a state system designed to speed applications and delivery of public assistance programs continues to cause headaches for county workers.

The Cumberland County Department of Social Services has a backlog of 2,000 Medicaid cases up for review – each case is reviewed every six months – and workers say old cases are showing up as unprocessed in the NC FAST system.

County Commissioners have approved 45 temporary positions to help DSS work on the backlog, but DSS Director Brenda Jackson wants commissioners to make the positions permanent, as well as adding 15 other positions to her staff.

Right now, Jackson said, about 80 percent of the 233 DSS employees process applications for Medicaid, food stamps, Work First and other programs on NC FAST. Together, the programs account for more than 100,000 cases.

"We’re working diligently with the temps and the time-limited positions that the county’s been able to provide for us," she said. "We’re working some non-traditional hours. We’re continuing to work comp time on weekends. We’ve been creative in allowing staff to take laptops home because NC FAST is a web-based system."

The 2012 rollout of NC FAST was plagued with problems, and so many counties lagged so far behind in processing food stamp applications that the federal government threatened to fine the state last year. Backlogs were eliminated only after extra state and county workers were pulled in and worked overtime and weekends to meet deadlines.

"It was a perfect storm," Jackson said. "When you have a new automated system and its technology has to be tested, you're going to have problems with any new computer system that you are implementing statewide."

The state Department of Health and Human Services is working with Cumberland County DSS to ensure that none of people involved in the Medicaid cases up for review lose their benefits while staffers work on the new backlog.

"When citizens are eligible for services and they don't receive the services, it impacts their nutrition and their ability to buy food to meet their medical needs," Jackson said.


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