Rowan Social Services’ Medicaid backlog nearly depleted

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A backlog of Medicaid cases that once numbered 12,000 in Rowan County is now down to about 3,000.

The backlog is a result of the state’s switch to a new software program — NC Fast — to process Medicaid and other types of assistance. NC Fast required Social Services employees to transfer thousands of Medicaid cases from paper documents to the new software program. In December, the total number of cases that needed to be transferred was about 12,000, according to Social Services Director Donna Fayko. During Tuesday’s Social Services Board meeting, staff announced the backlog was about 3,000 total cases.

To reduce the backlog, the state allocated additional funding to Social Services departments across North Carolina for temporary, part-time workers.

Funding for the part-time workers runs out at the end of the 2015 fiscal year — June 30 — but the frustration about the new software program remains.

“It’s sort of like flying the airplane as they’re building it. That’s why it’s such a mess,” Fayko said about NC Fast.

The backlog hasn’t affected the receipt of benefits for Rowan County residents, Fayko said.

On average, 25,000 to 30,000 Rowan County residents receive Medicaid benefits each month, according to Social Services statistics.

In other business from Tuesday’s meeting:

• Fayko announced income maintenance staff instead of office assistants would staff a portion of Social Services called the “Change Center.”

The change would allow a customer’s case to be altered immediately, she said. Currently, the office assistants are only able to take information and pass it on to other staff.

Social Services is aiming for July 6 to make the changes, Fayko said.

“There will be no more calling 500 times to reach somebody,” she said.

The change is possible because of a request in Social Services’ budget for the 2016 fiscal year, she said.

• The Social Services board discussed whether the department should support the community organization A New Beginning 2 in a grant application.

A New Beginning 2 is a community organization that has previously proposed creating a charter school in East Spencer. The community organization’s grant request, Fayko said, would provide at-risk, non-custodial fathers with counseling and general assistance.

She said the grant could help former foster children who have aged out of Social Services’ programs or fathers with low income.

Social Services Board Chairman Jim Sides said he would prefer to see a breakdown of the community organization’s salary schedule. Sides said a single person could be paid $183,000 with the grant, which board members called excessive.

“I don’t want to pour water on it before it begins, but it is important to look at budgetary matters,” said Social Services Board Member Dee Dee Wright.

• Fayko announced that five youth in Social Services’ foster program graduated from high school in 2015.

“That is an accomplishment given what the children have overcome,” she said.

• The Social Services Board approved a number of reports with statistics on the departments’ operations. The reports are regularly presented at every meeting.

Social Services’ fiscal report — dated for May 2015 — showed the department at 87 percent of its budget for the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.