March deadline looming for thousands of Medicaid cases

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It’s been one month since the Rowan County Commissioners approved a stop-gap sustainability plan for the Department of Social Services, but more than 9,000 Medicaid cases remain to be completed with a March deadline looming.

The Department of Social Services discussed the sustainability plan as a part its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. The plan, approved by Commissioners in mid-December, included a pay stipend for income maintenance staff; paying overtime to caseworkers and supervisors; hiring former Social Services employees and hiring employees of departments in neighboring counties.

The plan was created in response to a new software system, a turnover in staff and lengthy amount of time to get employees fully trained. The plan is paid through a 25 percent increase — from 50 percent to 75 percent — in an administrative Medicaid reimbursement, which became effective statewide in March.

With one month since the plan’s passage, more than 9,000 cases remain to be certified, according to numbers dated Jan. 17 that were cited during the meeting. The number of remaining cases is more than 1,000 less than just after the passage of the sustainability plan.

“Some of our best employees can only get 10 reviews done in a day because it’s taking so much longer to get it into the new system than it did in the old system,” said Income Maintenance Administrator Pat Spears. “If you try to look at these numbers, 10 per worker per day, over time these numbers can scare you.”

After the meeting,DSS Director Donna Fayko, likewise, said the number of remaining cases looks daunting, but said she has confidence the department can meet a March deadline for Medicaid cases.

“The overtime that’s being paid is specifically for work that’s being done on the Medicaid reviews and those are cases that the state has been rolling forward so people don’t lose their benefits,” she said. “It’s a daunting task. It will be a very big challenge and we’re going to do the best we can with the resources available to us.”

The Medicaid cases were previously due to be reviewed by December, but the state extended the deadline, according to agenda attachments. Rowan County’s Department of Social Services processes about 30,000 total Medicaid cases.

Despite the stipend’s passage as a part of the plan, Fayko said it hadn’t been awarded to employees yet. Fayko said she would meet with County Manager Aaron Church to discuss how or if DSS could recoup a portion of the stipend if employees leave for another job before the end of the fiscal year.

Since the plans’ approval, Fayko said employees are working about 10 hours per week in overtime. DSS allows its employees to work at home as a part of the sustainability plan.

“Many of our staff are young mothers and have young children at home, so in order for them to meet the mandates of the overtime requirement, they need some flexibility,” she said. “It’s really for work-life balance. It’s a benefit for us because we’re getting that work done and it’s a benefit to them for flexibility.”

DSS also has already started hiring employees to work non-traditional hours as a part of the plan. Fayko said her department has already hired one person and four hires are pending. The Department of Social Services is close to being fully staffed, she said.

The board and Fayko also praised former county commission chairman Jim Sides for his efforts during the Rowan County Commissioners meeting in helping the sustainability plan pass with a stipend.

“I have the distinct impression that had Jim not been there it may not have happened,” said board member Arnold Chamberlain. “He did an excellent job.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246